• This paper delves into the European Union’s approach to safeguarding its economic security in relation to its principal trade partner, the People’s Republic of China. Structured into four sections, the analysis begins by examining challenges and risks possessed by the PRC and offers an overview of positions on de-risking from China and interests of various stakeholders. The second chapter provides an overview of the current and future economic security instruments of the EU and selected EU member states. To broaden the horizon of existing policy frameworks, third chapter lists some of the lessons in de-risking policies from like-minded democracies Japan, the United States, and Taiwan. Finally, the paper concludes by presenting concrete policy recommendations for EU institutions, intended to fortify the economic resilience of the bloc.

    China Foreign Policy Globalisation

    Fortifying Economic Security: The EU’s Response to China’s Risk 


    17 Jun 2024

  • 970 million voters across 100 000 polling stations over 6 weeks of voting – the 2024 Indian elections operate at a scale beyond imaginable when it comes to democratic elections, dwarfing the no less important US and European elections. These elections across three different continents all mark decisive crossroads for their polities, which might shape not only their own destinies, but also the path of the future global order. India, which proudly calls itself the world’s largest democracy, sits at many crossroads – both domestically and as a rising power pole in a turbulent world.

    With Narendra Modi and his BJP having won elections for a third consecutive time, yet with a smaller majority than expected, we will not see a new India, as BJP propaganda ceaselessly claims, but rather a continuation of existing policies.

    However, the new European Commission will need to go back to the drawing board and adjust its strategic outreach to India as relations between the Asian country and the EU had developed rather sluggishly since the 2020 EU-India Strategic Partnership. The relationship took a heavy blow after the Russian war on Ukraine and India’s reaction of emphasising its own geostrategic objectives, including maintaining close relations with Russia. It didn’t, as some in Europe naively thought, quickly join the “Western alliance” against Russia – with Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar saying “Europe has to grow out of the mindset that Europe’s problems are the world’s problems, but the world’s problems are not Europe’s problems.”.

    That gives Europe a taste of the challenges ahead for future EU-India relations and can be seen as a testing ground for any future EU relations with emerging powers, beyond China. Breaking out of this repeating cycle of over-expectations and disappointments on the European side in relation to India requires a much better understanding of the internal dynamics of Indian policy, which is driven by the need for development and balancing the rising power of China in the Indo-Pacific sphere.

    The case for better EU-India relations is far from lost. Indians are well aware that Europe is an indispensable partner if India wants to succeed in its modernisation and become a relevant player in global affairs. This is because India’s needs go beyond a large population and a rapidly growing economy, despite what some self-confident Indian political leaders would have us all believe.

    As a breeding ground for innovation, Europe is – next to the United States – the place to be. A different quality of growth is what both continents seek to achieve. Educational exchange and matching labour demand to labour supply can be improved, for which Europe must tear down some obstacles and cultural prejudice. In India, rapid progress in energy transformation coupled with sustainable urbanisation will be crucial development factors for the country’s future. Even when it comes to coping with fast and ground-breaking demographic changes, as different as the situation between a young India and an ageing Europe may seem at first, best practices can be shared between the two partners. 

    A field of huge potential, but also of occasional despair, is the painstaking field of trade. Next to Mercosur, not having concluded a EU-India Free Trade Agreement over the last twenty years is a shameful point in bilateral relations. The European Union must critically revise its current approach, which has left the Union out of the dynamics of global trade integration, which is still happening despite debates around decoupling and de-risking. The latter would be an even stronger incentive to better exploit potential market opportunities. Economic security has become a focal point of Indian and European policies – with the caveat that it should not lead to a new round of protectionism, in which both partners shoulder some blame, even now. The realm of digitalisation and health is marked as a key unionised area of competence by the European Commission. Here, India deserves that more efforts be made to join hands, both in research and standards. 

    And there remains the field of hard power. As Europe steps up its effort to take more of its security in its own hands, new fields of cooperation emerge. India and the European Union as regional powers bear an increasing responsibility for the stability of their neighbourhood. And these areas are merging into each other, e.g., in the vast area around the Arabian Peninsula and East Africa. Maritime security and the fight against terrorism have already become a growing area of joint initiatives.

    Europe should not shy away from remaining a critical partner to India, even if it will receive some predictably harsh reactions from its political elite and accusations of double standards. Concerns about weakening democratic institutions in India are well-grounded, as are warnings against rising Hindu nationalism which would destroy the complex fabric of Indian society. Parts of India’s elite are jealously – and anxiously – looking at the rise of its big neighbour China and put development above everything. Europe should present itself to India as a different example of a power and success model, making the most of its diversity, while not giving up its identity.

    Peter Hefele Democracy Foreign Policy India

    Peter Hefele

    EU-India Relations: What Next After the 2024 Elections?


    07 Jun 2024

  • As we watch the dramatic images of Georgian citizens demonstrating against the “foreign agent” law in the capital, Tbilisi, it would be mistaken to see the case of Georgia as an isolated incident. A concerning trend has recently emerged across various Eurasian regions, driven by the shadow of Russian influence.

    The introduction of so-called “foreign agent” laws, reminiscent of Russia’s own restrictive measures, has not been limited to Moscow alone, but extends to countries like Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and territories such as Abkhazia. Even in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, similar legislative efforts have been proposed, indicating a broader, possibly coordinated strategy by Russia’s proxies to undermine civil society and democratic norms across its sphere of influence.

    Georgia’s foreign agent law, a precedent for repression which closely mirrors Russia’s infamous legislation, aims to label and restrict the activities of organisations receiving foreign funding. Introduced in early 2023, this move has sparked significant backlash from civil society groups, who view it as a direct threat to freedom of expression and association.

    The law’s introduction in Georgia can be seen as a critical component of Russia’s broader strategy to stifle dissent and maintain control over its neighbours​. The law, not yet even fully approved, is already used by the government to suppress opposition and civil society groups. Though people at large are very critical of the government and development, there are serious concerns about the fairness of the upcoming elections in the autumn of 2024.

    Kyrgyzstan is following suit. In April 2024, Kyrgyzstan’s President Sadyr Japarov signed into law a similar bill requiring NGOs receiving foreign funds to register as foreign agents. This law imposes stringent reporting requirements and exposes these organisations to public suspicion and governmental scrutiny, effectively curtailing their ability to operate independently. The move aligns Kyrgyzstan closer to Moscow’s authoritarian playbook, undermining the country’s democratic institutions and civil society​.

    In Abkhazia, the Russian-occupied province of Georgia, the de facto authorities introduced a foreign agents law in October 2023 as a tool to further occupation. This legislation is part of Russia’s broader strategy to consolidate its control over the territory, which it has recognised as an independent state despite international condemnation. The law further isolates Abkhazian civil society from external support, deepening its dependence on Russian political and financial backing​.

    Similarly, In April 2024, the Ministry of Justice in the Republic of Srpska of Bosnia and Herzegovina published a draft law similar to the one in Georgia and Kyrgyzstan, ruling that civil organisations that receive funding or support from foreign entities would be required to register in a special registry. The law was announced in 2022 by Milorad Dodik, the President of the Republic of  Srpska, with the timing of the adoption being unclear. The draft has been criticised for violating Bosnia and Herzegovina’s human rights commitments and goes against its EU accession aspirations.

    Serbia is also witnessing a debate on the introduction of a foreign agent law. Announced in April 2024 by Serbia’s small Movement of Socialists party, this proposal aims to restrict the activities of foreign non-governmental organisations operating in the Balkan country. This legislation would delegitimise and restrict NGOs that challenge the government or receive Western support. From the EU perspective, the intent is clear: The legislation, if ever approved, would reinforce Serbia’s alignment with Russian interests in the Balkans, further complicating the region’s fragile political landscape.

    A Pattern of Influence

    The synchronisation, timing and similarity of these legal initiatives suggest a coordinated effort by Russia to export its repressive tactics to neighbouring countries and territories. It should therefore not go unnoticed by the EU and the West. The introduction of foreign agent laws in Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and Abkhazia, as well as similar proposals in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, highlight a disturbing trend of authoritarianism spreading under Russian influence.

    By promoting foreign agent laws through its proxies and like-minded actors, Russia seeks to weaken civil society and reduce Western influence and support for democratic movements in these regions. This strategy is part of a broader geopolitical manoeuvre to solidify its sphere of influence and resist Western liberal democratic norms.

    Recognising and countering this pattern is crucial for supporting democratic resilience and human rights in these regions. The EU, the West and the international community must stand in solidarity with those affected, ensuring that the voices advocating for democracy and freedom are not silenced.

    Tomi Huhtanen EU-Russia Foreign Policy Values

    Tomi Huhtanen

    Georgia’s Foreign Agent Law: A Russian Strategy Unfolding Across Eurasia?


    31 May 2024

  • When combined, the EU and its member states rank as the second-largest donor of global development aid. Yet, there is hardly any public debate about the effectiveness, or even political legitimacy, of this policy field. The competition with ‘new’ donors such as China and India has raised fundamental questions about whether the concept of development as it has been pursued over the last 60 years, should undergo a complete revision and whether the traditional understanding of development itself needs to be abandoned.

    This brief develops a new conceptual framework from a centre–right perspective to critically review current policies and suggest new approaches. If the established system continues, we will see a further delegitimisation of this important field of international cooperation and a reduction in the global influence of the EU.

    Development Foreign Policy

    The Future of European Development Cooperation: A Centre–Right Perspective

    Policy Briefs

    28 May 2024

  • “To preserve peace, stability, and the status quo in the Taiwan Strait is key, not just for the security and prosperity of the region, but also for ours”, the EU’s High Representative Josep Borrell said in his address to the European Parliament in September 2022. This marked a year since the EP adopted its first stand-alone report on EU-Taiwan political relations and cooperation, raising key European concerns about the situation in the Taiwan Strait, including security, peace and stability, and threats to the rules-based international order. The resolution urged the bloc to intensify bilateral relations and “pursue a comprehensive and enhanced partnership under the guidance of the EU’s One China Policy”.

    These developments capture the new reality in EU-Taiwan relations, marked by an unprecedented level of European awareness of Taiwan’s strategic relevance to the bloc’s interests, seen in the context of efforts to rebalance relationswithChina. With the central balance of international power shifting from the Euro-Atlantic to the Indo-Pacific, and with the US-China rivalry intensifying, Taiwan’s relevance has recently increased. In light of China’s support for Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, Taiwan’s importance as a frontline democracy has also grown. Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s warning “Ukraine today may be East Asia tomorrow”, was a sign that regional states in the Indo-Pacific are reassessing their defence positions.

    Foreign Policy

    EU-Taiwan Ties in a New Reality: Time for an Upgrade


    24 May 2024

  • When an idea like the defence community re-emerges regularly over the course of 70 years but is never
    realised, what does this tell us? The message is, first, that the idea is backed by a strong rationale that
    does not allow us simply to shelve it and move on; but also, that the preconditions for its implementation
    have been absent.

    This paper brings together the insights of many Martens Centre experts in order to better understand what Europe needs to develop its defence policy and to how to implement the necessary steps.

    Defence EU Member States Foreign Policy Security

    The 7Ds – Defence in Depth

    The 7Ds

    06 Mar 2024

  • Welcome to the Migration Update February 2024. This curated news selection brings together many of the most important developments in the migration policy area over the last month, including recent ones tied to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

    The purpose of these news summaries is to provide a factual base for migration debates within the European centre-right. Vít Novotný is responsible for the selection of information items from the media, governments and social media. The value of these summaries is in the categorisation of information items and in listing those items that readers might have missed. Facts and opinions are conveyed as they are reported. Original comments are kept to a minimum. These news summaries are not subject to a formal editorial process. Niccolò Mazzocchetti provided material for the Judicial Observatory. Tim Beyer-Helm kindly supplied information items. Should you have any questions or comments, please contact Vít Novotný at vn@martenscentre.eu.

    Vít Novotný Foreign Policy Justice Migration

    Migration Update February 2024

    Migration Update

    29 Feb 2024

  • Two years already have passed since the eruption of war in Ukraine, yet the conflict’s outcome remains uncertain as ever. European leaders, in numerous declarations, have staunchly expressed their commitment to Ukraine, vowing unwavering support in the face of aggression.

    The West has managed to provide substantial backing, and the EU surprised itself with its solid support for Ukraine. However, the reality on the ground in Ukraine today is extremely worrying. Tangible assistance has fallen short and arrived late of what is truly needed.

    Meanwhile, the conflict in Ukraine has morphed into a larger battle waged by the East against the West, but not all in the US and Europe agree on this perception. Thus, the West finds itself ill-prepared to confront this challenge effectively.

    The United States, mainly its deadlocked, partisan Congress, continues to deliberate on providing substantial support, leaving Ukraine in a precarious position with uncertain prospects for financial and military assistance. Domestic political troubles in the US are undermining its decade-long investments into its global influence.

    Meanwhile, European nations are awakening to the urgency of the situation, hastily fortifying their defences. However, the logistical complexities mean that meaningful European aid to Ukraine will most likely arrive too late. The need for support is pressing, with Ukraine requiring assistance yesterday, not tomorrow.

    One of Putin’s most potent tools in this conflict has been nuclear deterrence, a realisation that is only now dawning upon Europe. Discussions abound regarding the modalities of nuclear defence, including the controversial proposal of a common European nuclear arsenal.

    Behind closed doors, there is a minority but growing sentiment within certain segments of the European political establishment that some form of accommodation with Russia may be necessary. Meanwhile, countries in Russia’s geographical proximity understand that peace with Russia might only offer temporary respite, before Putin sets off on the war path again.

    The war in Ukraine has shifted the political landscape in Europe, with defence emerging as a paramount issue. As a result, power dynamics within Europe are undergoing a subtle but significant shift Eastward. Countries bordering Russia are placing renewed emphasis on defence spending, recognising its newfound importance in a post-Fukuyama world characterised by disorder and geopolitical volatility.

    Amidst debates within the EU about the feasibility of a unified European army, the stark reality is simple: currently, Ukraine’s army IS the European army, serving as a frontline defence for Europe’s security, its values, and its future. The moral implications of delayed assistance weigh heavily on the West, as Ukrainian lives are lost while European politicians deliberate.

    As the conflict drags on, questions about the future relationship between Europe, the EU, and Ukraine loom large. Should Ukraine emerge from this ordeal as a divided and disillusioned nation, betrayed by its European allies, the repercussions would be profound. The assumption of Ukraine’s unwavering pro-EU stance cannot be taken for granted, as trust erodes in the face of prolonged neglect.

    In light of these challenges, the path forward for the EU and Europe is clear: we must honour the pledges made at the onset of the conflict and provide unequivocal support to Ukraine in its struggle for sovereignty, self-determination, and victory. In war, like politics, persistence and determination are key elements. While Ukraine is in a difficult position, the situation is no easier for Russia, a country now destined for economic and social decline under Putin’s brutal regime, even more so than was already the case. Nothing is lost yet.

    2024 stands as a pivotal juncture, where decisive action is imperative to shape the outcome of this protracted conflict. Inaction in supporting Ukraine risks Europe becoming a battlefield for years to come. The stakes are high, and the time for meaningful intervention is now. The European countries’ response to the Ukraine war will not only define their relationship with Ukraine or their role as global actors, but it is an existential question challenging their capacity to uphold peace, democracy, and human rights within their own continent.

    Tomi Huhtanen Defence EU-Russia Foreign Policy Ukraine Values

    Tomi Huhtanen

    The War in Ukraine, 2 Years On – In 2024, Europe Must Decide if it Wants to Win

    Blog - Ukraine

    23 Feb 2024

  • When will the West finally realise and embrace that there is now a second Chinese nation – called Taiwan –, a democratic alternative to the totalitarian model across the Taiwan Street and the trampled hope of Hong Kong? The rather restrained and concerned reaction in many Western countries on the democratic election of the new Taiwanese president, Lai Ching-te, seems strange. Shouldn’t it rather be a source of relief and joy, given the widespread concerns about an unstoppable rise of authoritarianism?

    The convincing and clear victory of Lai Ching-te, the ROC’s former Premier and current Vice-President, running for the Democratic Progressive Party, is a remarkable start to the global election marathon in 2024, where the democratic systems of major countries will be put to the test.

    How should Europe react? What could a new phase of engagement with Taiwan look like?

    It can be predicted that European governments will continue to act too restrained to upgrade their relations substantially. Too many concerns about mainland China’s retaliation keep them from adequately coping with the development within Taiwan. Therefore, it is up to the European Parliament, its national counterparts, and its parties to push for deepening the political exchange with their newly elected counterpart, the Legislative Yuan, in Taipei. The potential for this level of cooperation, which has to be extended to civil society as well, is far from being fully exploited.

    For too long, our view on Taiwan has been dominated rather by a functional perspective: the country was seen as a pawn on the Pacific chess board of superpower competition between the United States and Mainland China; and a key player in the global technology race. But much more exciting and unique in the Chinese, even Asian world, is its successful transition from a dictatorship towards the establishment and maturing of a democratic nation. Beijing’s ridiculous reaction to doubt the free will and legitimacy of the Taiwanese people’s vote needs no further comment. Lai’s victory is a clear signal to the world about the confidence of the Taiwanese people in their right to determine their future.

    But Taiwan will continue heading into ever more turbulent waters, domestically and internationally. The more interesting part is the problematic coalition formation in the Parliament, with an oppositional majority. It will be interesting to witness a rather new political dynamic, not unknown to mature democracies, but with the danger of creating friction, which Beijing will try to exploit.

    In relation to mainland China, Lai Ching-te will follow the lines laid out by the previous administration of President Tsai Ing-wen. In this approach, he has the support of the Taiwanese people who have developed a remarkable capability to live under a permanent threat, while being locked into the narrow corset of a second-class nation. Yet, being aware of the thin path they can walk, they need no external lecturing, least of all from Europe.

    As the pressure from across the Taiwan Strait increases, the key to responding to such demonstrative threats with confidence and restraint lies more than ever with the United States. That means further credibly reinforcing the U.S. position, making clear to Beijing that Washington would not tolerate any use of force across the Strait. This position can still go hand in hand with reiterating the United States’ stance on the “one China” principle, which includes refraining both sides from unilaterally changing the status quo.

    Yet, after the confirmation of the dominant role of the DPP as an expression of a strong Taiwanese identity, neither side on the Taiwan Strait can continue with old narratives. The 1992 consensus, which acknowledged two political bodies without excluding reunification, is no longer shared within Taiwanese society. And since Xi Jinping achieved unprecedented power in the PRC, he has also clearly denounced this accord against its “historical mission” of reunification.

    Regarding its contribution to hard power deterrence, Europe has no real cards to play. Taiwan’s security remains totally in the hands of the United States and its closest regional ally, Japan. But economic integration, a deeper scientific exchange and joint efforts into sustainable transformation are fields of promising cooperation. There is nothing in the concept of a “one-China” policy which prevents Europe from doing more. However, this stepping up of initiatives should not be limited to Taiwan. The whole region around the South China Sea deserves better engagement and upholding of norms of international law by Europe. Linking up with Taiwan’s own initiatives in that region could leverage Europe’s footprint, too.

    Peter Hefele China Democracy Elections Foreign Policy

    Peter Hefele

    Time for Joy, not Concern – Thoughts on the Recent Taiwanese Elections


    31 Jan 2024

  • The reliability of the COPGPT algorithm never disappoints. Every recent COP climate conference is labelled as a ‘make or break moment’ as expectations rise in the build-up. The host nation carries the mantle of an honest broker while simultaneously pushing a separate agenda to clean up its own image or grab lucrative side deals. An international coalition led by the European Union tries to achieve another, final climate breakthrough, but is met with fierce opposition. In the end, the summit saves face with a climate pledge that sounds appealing, but changes little when it comes to limiting global warming.

    The recently concluded COP28 summit in Dubai followed a very similar pattern. Filtering through the media hype and the UAE’s self-praise, what are the most important takeaways?  

    ‘The historic deal’

    Labelled as the ‘UAE Consensus’, the hosts have lauded the final communiqué as a global breakthrough on fossil fuels. The official commitment calls for the signatories to pursue: “transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner […]” The joint document didn’t live up to the ambition to feature explicit language about the need to ‘phase-out’  fossil fuels, a pledge supported by more than 100 countries, including the US and EU member states.

    Instead, ‘transitioning away’ remains an extremely lofty commitment, which serves mostly the interests of petroleum exporting nations (OPEC+), who won’t be feeling any additional pressure to cut down on their production. Not to mention the fact that this call doesn`t feature any tenable timeline for its implementation. The open interpretations surrounding a ‘just and orderly’ transition are also a wink to oil price stability, which is why Saudi officials left the summit in a jubilant mood.

    Almost a decade after the landmark Paris Agreement, we are sold the ‘UAE Consensus’ as an actual breakthrough on limiting fossil fuel dependencies.

    It is not.

    Renewables and energy efficiency

    One of the more notable highlights of the climate conference has been the growing interest in the Global Renewables Alliance. More than 120 countries have joined the pledge to triple renewable energy generation capacity to at least 11 TW by 2030, and collectively double the global average rate of energy efficiency improvements also by 2030. The implementation of such a demanding promise remains to be seen, but at least we are seeing a tangible pledge which strives to keep global stakeholders closer to the goals of the Paris Agreement.

    However, the good news was darkened by the unwillingness of China and India to sign this specific commitment. The two Asian economies are the first and third biggest global polluters, jointly being responsible for around 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Even though China has an impressive record in renewable energy deployment, Beijing has refused to commit, most probably due to their concerns that they won’t be able to follow up on energy efficiency improvements.

    Nuclear energy and carbon management

    Another positive signal came from a group 20 countries who made a separate agreement to triple their nuclear energy capacity until 2050. More than half of the signatures came from European countries, also joined by the US, Canada and Japan, among others. Traditional nuclear power plants remain a costly endevour, and much of this renewed engagement will bear fruit much later, in the 2030s. However, considering that every rigorous decarbonsation scenario requires a manifold increase of clean electricity supply, nuclear energy remains an important piece of a 2050 outlook.

    In parallel, as a separate coalition building exercise, countries from six continents launched the carbon management challenge, which aims to accelerate the deployment of carbon capture and storage technologies. Countries such as Brazil, Canada, Indonesia, Kenya, the UK and the US are among the main interested, while this type of technology has a large potential for developing countries globally.

    Climate finance

    As always, the issue of financing the global transition remained thorny. The necessity to mobilise international funds in support of developing countries’ decarbonisation effort is beyond doubt. However, as exemplified by the disappointing progress of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the actual involvement of developed countries remains lukewarm. Not to mention the fact that the recent COP 28 promises on climate finance pale in comparison to the trillions of euros of annual investments needed to transform the global economy towards a more sustainable path.

    One of the most misdirected initiatives has been the ‘loss and damage’ fund. This is a new compensation vehicle which would require rich nations to provide funds to poorer nations after suffering severe climate events. Letting aside the complex legal issues which will challenge both international and national legal frameworks, this mechanism could create a downwards spiral of endless claims and controversies between nations. If the ‘loss and damage’ fund is just another way of providing development aid, it will be cursed with the same shortcomings. Unfortunately, such a mechanism would also disincentivise developing countries to invest in climate mitigation and adaptation measures.

    All of the developments and disappointments discussed above seem to exemplify the nature of the COP format. Expect smart and nimble small coalitions between like-minded countries, a common front by the Asian polluters, as well as cloak and dagger tactics by OPEC+. National development objectives will always prevail, while the ambitious pledges of the industrialised nations will never cover their own shortcomings, making them less of a role model for others.

    The travelling circus of the COP and its coterie of consultants and climate gurus is trumpeted as a success for its ever growing participation and global ‘engagement’. However, the forum is mostly valuable for what happens on its fringes. Make no mistake, the conference in its current format and with its built-in limitations can only overpromise and underdeliver on the global transition towards carbon neutrality.

    Dimitar Lilkov Peter Hefele Climate Change Crisis Energy Foreign Policy

    Dimitar Lilkov

    Peter Hefele

    COP28: Between Greenwashing and Modest Progress


    21 Dec 2023

  • The Russian state is a threat to freedom in Europe and the integrity of the EU. Since 1945 we have relied on the United States to protect freedom on our continent. While it is to be hoped the US will be able to stay involved in the most successful democratic alliance in history, the risk of conflict in Asia, a return to isolationism, or the re-election of Donald Trump is too high for the EU not to develop a defence industrial and technological base (DITB) able to supply Europe’s defence on its own. Such a renewed DITB will furthermore be able to contribute to the collective defence of democracy across the globe and support our friends and allies in the United States and democratic Asia. In the worst case it will allow Europe to defend itself from Russian aggression alone. In the best circumstances it will strengthen the international community of democracies.

    This paper finds that developing such capability is well within the capacity of the EU and its member states and proposes a series of measures by which it can be financed. It analyses the composition of the defence budgets of EDA members between 2017 and 2021, and assesses their levels of defence investment, research and development, and “research and technology” (R&T – fundamental technological research that is itself an input to R&D). It identifies gaps and recommends EU policies and instruments to close them.

    Defence European Union Foreign Policy Industry

    Freedom Must Be Better Armed Than Tyranny: Boosting Research and Industrial Capacity for European Defence

    Policy Briefs

    30 Nov 2023

  • China Foreign Policy

    Thinking Talks Episode 13: China’s Role In Geopolitics with Valerie Niquet

    Multimedia - Thinking Talks

    29 Nov 2023

  • In today’s contested world, the EU´s relations with Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) are of growing importance. Both have a long-standing strategic partnership, based on shared values, culture and history as well as solid economic ties. With a direct investment stock of 800 billion EUR the EU is by far the largest investor in the region. In the long run, and to be credible, the EU needs to go beyond rhetoric, develop resilient sustainable partnerships, and implement concrete projects, while considering the needs and priorities of its partners, in this case Latin American and Caribbean countries. At the same time, in a new geopolitical era, the EU also must find its position on the global stage and build its “geopolitical identity”.

    In this context, this WMCES-HSS publication addresses some overarching questions and aspects.

    Foreign Policy

    International Cooperation in a New Era: the EU’s Quest for Like-Minded Partners – Latin American and Caribbean


    31 Oct 2023

  • Orchestrating migration pressure has long been an instrument used by a variety of actors to create leverage, extract concessions, inflict damage on reputations or pursue other hostile intentions. The EU has faced several such attempts. The events organised by the Lukashenka regime in Belarus in 2021, by Türkiye in early 2020 and by Morocco in May 2021 are the most notable. This policy brief argues that the EU has handled recent situations of migration coercion rather well and has the potential to handle them even better in the future. The apparent inconsistency and fluidity of EU action is often subject to criticism in the media, a cause of exasperation for national and EU officials, and perceived as a serious deficiency to be remedied. However, the same policy and operational opacity has significant advantages: it makes the EU an unpredictable target for migration instrumentalisation, presenting adversaries with planning challenges. Commenting on existing Commission proposals, the paper argues the continued unpredictability of EU responses, albeit based on an imperfect legislative status quo, is preferable to EU laws that might constrain the bloc’s room for manoeuvre. 

    Foreign Policy Migration

    The Power of Opacity: EU Responses to Weaponised Migration

    Policy Briefs

    25 Oct 2023

  • This study examines the influence of China’s presence and activities on the European Union (EU) integration process of the Western Balkans. Since the Thessaloniki Summit of 2003, only Croatia managed to join the EU, while the other countries in the region remain candidates for membership, with little prospects to join by 2030. The research investigates how China’s approach impacts specific outcomes, both supporting and undermining the EU accession process, chapter by chapter. It also explores the reasons behind these outcomes, including China’s approach, domestic agency, and geopolitical factors. The goal is to provide a comprehensive and cross-country analysis of China’s impact in the region and identify areas where the Western Balkan countries can eliminate or minimise negative consequences, or leverage potential synergies, ultimately aiming to understand the interplay between China’s involvement and the EU integration process in the Western Balkans.

    The presentation of the research findings took place on October 18 in Skopje, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

    China Enlargement Foreign Policy Western Balkans

    China’s Influence on the Western Balkans’ EU Accession Process: Synergies and Obstacles


    23 Oct 2023

  • One can only be deeply moved by the sight of exhausted Armenians, fleeing Nagorno-Karabakh in droves. Over a hundred years after the Armenian genocide (perpetrated by the Young Turks in 1915-1917, though still not officially acknowledged by Türkiye), and the establishment of the first Armenian state in 1918, the lightning Azeri offensive forced the so-called “Republic of Artsakh” to capitulate to Baku. The 30-year-old republic will officially cease to exist on January 1, 2024.

    Up until this point, more than 100,000 of its 120,000 residents have crossed the border into the Republic of Armenia through the Lachin corridor, the only passage connecting Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has characterised this humanitarian crisis as an ethnic cleansing orchestrated by Baku. Azeris vehemently deny these allegations, emphasising the humanitarian aid provided to the remaining Armenians, while promising them the same rights as other Azerbaijani citizens.

    The fear of living under Ilham Aliyev’s authoritarian regime, coupled with the deep-seated historical enmity between the two nations, has left Karabakh Armenians with very few options. All of this appears to be a natural progression following the ten-month blockade of the Lachin corridor, which deprived Nagorno-Karabakh and its people of essential supplies. The international community has not only failed to reverse the course of this siege but, worse yet, has fallen short in reassuring its population about its future.

    The usually vocal and justly assertive EU in defending human rights and opposing any form of violence has, this time, chosen to remain silent. Only the European Parliament managed to raise a strong voice and condemn Azerbaijan. The crucial energy partnership, though, between Brussels and Baku diminishes the possibility of taking harsh measures against Azerbaijan’s aggression. On the other side of the Atlantic, Washington does not appear willing or able to risk direct involvement in the region, offering only general statements about “restraining further hostilities and engaging both parties in finding a lasting and sustainable peace agreement.”

    Meanwhile, Russia, the most significant third-party actor in the region with troops on the ground, has done little to halt the Azeris. Moscow, deeply embroiled in its own war in Ukraine, was unwilling to support a country whose leadership repeatedly displayed signs of “disobedience”. Yerevan’s decision to condemn Russia’s attack on Kyiv and its recent alignment with the International Criminal Court in prosecuting Putin has outraged the Kremlin. Even if the Russians aim to appear as peace brokers in the Caucasus, their inaction has clearly undermined their role and presence there.

    But who truly benefits from the current situation in the South Caucasus? Undoubtedly, Azerbaijan, capitalising on its rapid economic growth and geopolitical position, has built a robust military and, by forging the right alliances, launched an attack on Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020. Their strategic goal of erasing the Armenian presence in the enclave was achieved with the second operation on September 19. However, this may not be the end of this long-standing conflict. Aliyev openly shares Turkish President Erdoğan’s grandiose idea of “one nation, two states” and envisions Türkiye as the mother and protector of all Turkic peoples.

    Ankara has established a foothold in the Caucasus, and Turkish aspirations for an expanded sphere of influence from the Balkans to Central Asia seem promising. One of the last obstacles to this is southeastern Armenia, a narrow strip of land dividing Nakhichevan (West Azerbaijan) from the eastern part of the country. Azerbaijan has already threatened Armenia with the use of force if the “Angezur/Meghri corridor” does not open, disregarding Western appeals and Iranian warnings not to challenge the latter’s sovereignty.

    It is concerning that the West appears comfortable with the two Turkic states acting as a bulwark against Russian expansion in the region. However, unchecked Turkish influence in the wider region may be difficult to restrain later, especially given Erdoğan’s unreliable relationship with the West over the past decade.

    Israel, especially in light of the recent terrorist attacks within its territory, is poised to leverage its longstanding support for Azerbaijan. The latitude granted to its intelligence services to operate near the Iranian borders could potentially prove crucial in the event of a confrontation with Iran. In contrast, Tehran’s vocal support for the Armenians has proven to be ineffective. The situation may worsen for the Islamic Republic if Baku follows through with its corridor threats, cutting off Iranians not only from Armenia, but subsequently from their closest ally, Russia.

    However, no matter how painful the situation is for the Armenians, the party due to receive the most blame for the current, dire situation of the “Artsakh” is the shortsighted leadership in Yerevan over the years. They proved incapable of keeping up with the developments and dynamics in their own neighbourhood and the wider world over the past three decades. Their heavy reliance on Russia, who has cleverly cultivated the myth of being the protector of Caucasus Christians, was revealed to be fragile. After the 2018 Armenian Revolution, the shift towards the West was sudden, unprepared, and without a deep assessment of the risks involved.

    The Armenian exodus does not mark the end of the conflict. The complexity of Armenian-Azeri relations and the involvement of additional actors compared to the past create an explosive mix. The West, in general, needs to determine whether the protection of human rights and liberal democracy outweighs the allure of cheap natural gas prices. Armenia’s accession to NATO would have been a good first step in stabilising the region. Otherwise, it is only a matter of time before a new spark ignites the entire region once again.

    Panos Tasiopoulos Eastern Partnership EU-Russia Foreign Policy

    Panos Tasiopoulos

    After the World’s Crocodile Tears for Armenians, What Next for the South Caucasus?


    09 Oct 2023

  • A new consensus in Europe and beyond seems to have formed positing that the unipolar moment in geopolitics, following the Cold War, has given way to an emerging 21st-century order defined by multipolarity: i.e., not only China but also Russia, India, Brazil, Turkey and others—not to mention the EU—represent sometimes cooperating, sometimes competing, but ultimately disparate power centres which increasingly challenge the US and erstwhile US-led global order, and which have at last tipped the balance towards a world in which no particular state or system can any longer presume predominance. Chancellor Scholz has expressed this as clearly as anyone.

    Another view, less common, is that the unipolar moment remains: that China, beset by economic malaise and lacking true allies, cannot truly rival the US with a competitive, paradigmatic alternative. Still another, strong among US policy-makers, is that we are entering if not a new cold war then at least a new bipolar framework rendering a new cold war not unlikely, with Washington and Beijing the rival superpowers.   

    Arguments for multipolarity seem to rely in large part on contrasting our current moment with that of the Cold War. China is so much bigger economically than the USSR ever was, it is argued, and the US and China so much more interdependent than were the Americans and Soviets. President Xi is not pushing a coherent, expansive narrative of international communism like Lenin, Stalin and their successors. Nuclear proliferation has changed the game. And still so much of the world remains unconvinced by either the American or Chinese models, with bickering even between Western democracies and mistrust rife among autocrats.      

    And yet we perhaps forget how strong the Soviet economy often looked to Western observers (to say nothing of missile gaps); how much of the world remained nonaligned post-1945 and post-colonisation, a field of ideological competition and sometimes proxy war; or how big the disagreements often were in either camp. France withdrew from NATO; the Suez Crisis was a debacle for the West; not only US nuclear arms in West Germany, but West Germany’s Ostpolitik, were highly controversial. For their part, the USSR and China actually went to war, as did China and Vietnam. Tito always resisted Moscow.      

    The recent BRICS expansion certainly gives pause to the notion that the world can be again demarcated, more or less, per countries’ alignment with either of two principal superpowers. India, most of all and most importantly, remains as nonaligned as ever. Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are hard to pin down, too, and purposely so.  

    The BRICS agenda ostensibly intends a more balanced world order, as President Ramaphosa stated in Johannesburg. In the long run, however, such a big-tent program, accommodating (among others) anti-Western, post-colonialist, strongman and communist ideologies, seems likely to privilege primarily the interests of China, as by far the strongest actor: undermining the American-led order ultimately in pursuit neither of fragmentation nor true state-based egalitarianism but rather of a Sino-centric order based on values core to the ruling Chinese Communist Party. China’s 4 February 2022 Joint Statement with Russia lays out the principles of a new systemic paradigm whereby states, and not individuals, hold essential and indissoluble rights. China’s ongoing support for Russia’s war in Ukraine makes all too clear the consequences, and the stakes, of such a vision.  

    Perhaps most telling of all, indeed, as recently reported by Mark Leonard of the European Council on Foreign Relations (who has argued for the multipolar analysis), Chinese policy-makers themselves seem to believe what we are witnessing in Ukraine is a proxy war not between the US and Russia but between the US and China. American policy-makers, for their part, have generally argued domestically that Ukraine must be defended in order to prevent a much bigger conflict: by deterring a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. Whatever else we may say, therefore, about the merits of a bipolar reading, it seems the leaders of the two biggest economies and likely most powerful conventional militaries believe among themselves—whatever they may tell others—they are confronting not just a disparate array of competing global interests and power centres but fundamentally a single peer antagonist buttressed by stronger or weaker partnerships. From the US perspective, this makes clear not only the September 2021 AUKUS announcement but also the reinvigoration of the Quad, the G7 and NATO; the spring 2023 defence agreements with the Philippines and South Korea; the unprecedented trilateral agreement in mid-August with South Korea and Japan; and the renewed push now to broker a peace deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia. In each theatre, the US hopes to contain China and its growing influence.

    The Cold War was a contest of superpowers as well as ideologies. But if China is not the USSR—i.e., is not the flag-bearer of an expansionary communist ideology—then along what lines should Washington’s and Beijing’s respective axes be understood? President Biden has spoken of a struggle between democracy and authoritarianism. And indeed, an ideology promoting a global democracy of states, rather than a system of states—and ideally democratic states—representing individuals possessing inherent rights, inclines to authoritarian government.    

    But perhaps a more helpful paradigm is not democracy vs authoritarianism but pro- vs anti-order—specifically, the post-World-War-Two order which has survived and largely thrived for so many decades. Such a framework would make sense still of the role which China, led by the Chinese Communist Party, has in leading a revisionist bloc—alongside revanchist neo-fascist states like Russia, communistic North Korea and Cuba, and the reactionary theocracy of Iran—in opposing the basic tenets of the UN Convention of Human Rights. It would also make better sense of the concerns of many even democratic countries which push back in frustration against a post-War order they view as both too rigid and at times rigged.    

    What the US and its allies must therefore do is to recognise, first—and this has become less obvious to voters—the need to defend the post-War order as something inherently worth preserving; but, second, to see as well the urgent need to adapt and expand that order, in keeping with its foundational democratic ideals, to achieve greater inclusiveness, responsiveness and legitimacy. For though we may hope core values of liberty and justice, seen from the arc of history, trump mere economic and political efficiency, people in the end also want the goods of security and stability alongside personal and market freedoms. If they cannot get the former, they may come to choose or tolerate alternatives to the latter promising more deliverable trade-offs.    

    The EU of course has a vital role to play: as the world’s third largest economy, a respected voice for international rule of law and cutting-edge leader in ensuring new technologies protect, rather than encroach on, democratic norms and human rights. We have seen welcome transatlantic re-alignment under the Biden administration, perhaps most especially in supporting Ukraine since Russia’s February 2022 invasion. Europe’s emerging de-risking strategy vis-à-vis China, key theme to the broader economic security strategy adumbrated by the European Commission in June, is another example.

    But it may be time to put to rest the pursuit of an independent security and defence policy in contradistinction to that of the US, and to expand instead the framework of transatlantic burden-sharing. For if indeed it is China which will define and lead a systemic challenge to the post-War order, then the US will be focused increasingly on the Indo-Pacific; and the EU and Europe’s NATO members will need to take more responsibility for security in their own neighbourhood. This test may come sooner than later, given the political headwinds facing US presidential candidates advocating robust ongoing support for Ukraine.     

    Among the costs for the EU of a misleading, because incomplete, narrative of multipolarity is not only greater vulnerability to regional crises but wasted opportunity costs, as with Germany’s belated recognition of the threat posed by the Chinese government to Germany’s next-generation telecoms infrastructure. Such a framework, moreover, serves ultimately a Chinese Communist Party narrative of a new order of fairness for all, with China as arbiter and guarantor, to replace America’s neo-colonial, exploitative—and inherently hypocritical—erstwhile hegemony.

    If and when a state of multipolarity ever does obtain (sustainably and foreseeably: that is, assuming in particular the continuity of China’s current system), the US, EU and their partners and allies should neither retreat into isolationism nor celebrate a putative shift towards greater equity, but should rather do all they can, and as fast as they can, to re-establish a winning—including deeper and wider—global consensus around the market norms, democratic ideals, and values of personal freedom and responsibility which have undergirded for so many decades the most peaceful and prosperous period humans have ever known. The alternatives to that order advanced thus far are neither agnostic nor benign; they are unlikely, historically and intrinsically, to yield better outcomes. In the context of the sharp contest of paradigms currently underway, we abandon to our peril—and this goes for Americans too—our commitment to reinvigorating a pro-democratic, American-led answer.

    Nathan Shepura China Foreign Policy Leadership Transatlantic

    Nathan Shepura

    What’s Your Order? Why our Framing of the World Matters


    06 Sep 2023

  • On 21 June 2023, Foreign Policy and the Martens Centre explored the escalating tensions between China and Taiwan and the implications for the transatlantic alliance. The event featured policymakers, security officials, and experts for a thought-provoking event that went #BeyondtheStrait

    Klaus Welle China Foreign Policy

    Tensions Beyond the Strait: How Taiwan’s Security Is Impacting The Transatlantic Alliance

    Live-streams - Multimedia

    23 Jun 2023

  • Is the idea of ‘European sovereignty’ still relevant? It was originally developed as an EU response to the rise of populism within its territory and the disruption of transatlantic relations brought about by the Trump presidency. But today its relevance appears uncertain in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the growing assertiveness of China. This brief argues that European sovereignty (and related concepts such as strategic autonomy) is still an important and necessary guide for EU policy, but only if it is dissociated from some of the excessive and overambitious definitions given to the concept when it was first developed. European sovereignty is bound to fail if it is defined as taking an equidistant position between the US and China or as aiming for the atavistic goal of autarky in all conceivable policy areas, from security and energy to economy and technology. Instead, the brief argues, European sovereignty must be understood as a moderate and pragmatic agenda of defending EU interests and priorities within the wider framework of the transatlantic relationship, protecting the EU’s internal liberal political and economic order, and defending international openness where the EU still has comparative advantages. Most of all, the necessary objective of protecting European sovereignty against external forces must not become a backdoor for the undue centralisation of political and economic power inside the EU, a process that would be bound to generate new populist reactions and constrain the EU’s room of manoeuvre internationally. The brief concludes by proposing an understanding of European sovereignty as a compound term, containing both the ideal of EU autonomy of action internationally and the protection of the Union’s internal heterogeneity, diversity and level playing field. Understood in this way as a ‘sovereignty of sovereignties’, European sovereignty can serve as an important guide for EU policy.

    Foreign Policy Sovereignty Strategic Autonomy

    European sovereignty between autonomy and dependence: A guide for EU policy

    Policy Briefs

    22 Jun 2023

  • The war in Ukraine has highlighted many uncertainties and raised many questions concerning Europe’s future security and defence requirements. Has the world now been forced to accept that interstate war is no longer a phenom- enon of the past? Have the EU’s relations—and hopes for partnership—with Russia irrevocably ended? Has a new eastern-leaning centre of gravity been established within the EU? How has the war affected the nature and trajec- tory of transatlantic security relations? How might the EU conceptualise and deliver on its new requirements in the field of military capacity? What are the prospects for a peace settlement and a new Eurasian security order? These profound questions require a major aggiornamento in the EU’s approach to security and defence policy.

    Foreign Policy Security Ukraine

    The Ukraine War and Its Implications for European Security


    29 May 2023

  • Following his recent trip to China, French President Emmanuel Macron drew global attention with two remarks: First, that Taiwan is not Europe’s problem, and second that Europe should avoid being a constant ‘follower’ of the US. Quite the opposite he claims, the EU must emancipate itself and become a third global superpower – alongside the United States and China.

    At best, the first statement is unreasonable and short-sighted. At worst, it is dangerous for Europe. Europe’s ‘dissociation’ from the strategic alliance with the USA is clearly disadvantageous for our continent. The US and its allies in the Indo-Pacific would be able to tackle China’s drive for dominance in the South China Sea and adjacent territories much more easily than we in Europe would be able to tackle, by ourselves alone, the threat posed by Russia and the challenge represented by an increasingly unsettled Africa.

    The second remark, emphasising the need for Europe’s emancipation is appealing, politically ‘catchy’ and, in principle, correct. But it runs into issues as soon as one considers the paradox that France is doing absolutely nothing to turn that contention into reality.

    To become a real superpower, the EU not only needs a robust common market, but also corresponding common armed forces, able to act as an effective deterrent and, if warranted, as a factor capable of averting an attack and defending European interests.

    Common European armed forces can be created and effectively deployed only on the condition that the EU’s foreign policy and its decision-making are transformed to meet this purpose. It is precisely on this point where France is ‘blocking the door’ and shows no intention of removing said obstruction.

    France would be making a very strong contribution to strengthening Europe’s position by vacating its seat as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, in favour of the European Commission. If France wished to make an even stronger contribution to increasing the European project’s authority, it could share its nuclear arsenal with Germany, Poland, and other EU countries. This with the ultimate objective of handing this arsenal over to the command of common, unified European armed forces.

    And finally – the EU will not enjoy the esteem and respect it is due if the French President spends time parading on the red carpet at Beijing airport, while the Head of the European Executive is wandering down the side corridors of that same airport. In other words: if the EU has 27 national ‘chiefs’ plus the European one as a makeweight, and until EU citizens elect a single President with appropriate competences, the EU will be only a paper tiger on the global scale, rather than a real superpower.

    Who else but the President of France should instigate concrete steps to transform the EU from being a paper tiger into a real superpower? Instead, the French president is giving speeches and dazzling audiences but, in essence, he is bluffing. Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping are not the only ones who see it. A growing number of Europeans are beginning to realise this also, who have until now maintained their belief in the European project but are increasingly frustrated about the future.

    This is what Macron must be reminded of at every opportunity. For it is France that holds the mixer which can help supply most of the concrete for our European house.

    Mikuláš Dzurinda European Union Foreign Policy Leadership

    Mikuláš Dzurinda

    Deeds, not Bluffs, President Macron!


    24 Apr 2023

  • On 24 February 2022, conventional interstate conflict returned to Europe after Russia launched an unprovoked war against Ukraine. Although some predicted at the time that Kyiv would fall in a matter of days, the Ukrainian people continue to fight to defend their homeland and push Russia out. Their bravery and determination should be saluted, and the international community should continue to show solidarity towards Ukraine.

    Russia’s invasion is a major breach of international law, specifically the principle that the borders of recognised states should not be changed by the force of arms. Ukrainians voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, and the USSR’s successor state, the Russian Federation, recognised Ukrainian independence in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum. Allowing Russia’s aggression to stand would weaken this principle and provide a precedent for other aggressive states to extend their frontiers by force.

    It is unclear how much longer the war will last. Russia has remained committed to waging war against Ukraine, and Ukraine has ruled out any peace that does not involve the return of all its occupied provinces, including the province of Crimea. Furthermore, the land that Ukraine is seeking to free from Russian occupation is perceived by both sides as part of their national identity, but it remains Ukrainian under international law. This means that the chances for a sustainable peace deal are currently rather slim. The EU must therefore prepare for a protracted Russo-Ukrainian war, characterised by intermittent periods of escalation and de-escalation.

    To deal with such a conflict, the EU needs an action plan. The objectives of this action plan should be to (1) push Russia to cease all hostilities towards Ukraine and withdraw its forces as a first step beyond the 24 February 2022 borders, (2) assist Ukraine in recovering and rebuilding itself, (3) facilitate Ukraine’s accession to the EU, and (4) enhance the EU’s strategic sovereignty, i.e., its capacity to react and deal with external shocks. To reach these goals, a set of short, medium, and long-term options are presented below.

    EU-Russia Foreign Policy Future of Europe Ukraine

    The War in Ukraine and the Way Forward


    28 Mar 2023

  • In a June 2022 interview, Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar stated “Somewhere Europe has to grow out of the mindset that Europe’s problems are the world’s problems, but the world’s problems are not Europe’s problems”, when discussing the war in Ukraine. Much could be said in response, for instance reminding the fact that the EU is the biggest donor of development aid globally with over 75 billion Euros yearly, and to underline that India is no stranger to territorial challenges – from China.

    Nevertheless, Jaishankar’s statement should not be overlooked. Despite the EU’s development cooperation, European public interest towards Asia has previously been rather limited to China. For example, India’s border problems with China have received little attention in Europe. The minister was calling for reciprocity.

    India hosted the most recent G20 foreign ministers’ meeting on 1-2 March, covering topics such as green development, climate finance and multilateralism in the 21st century, among others. In the end, the G20 meeting ended without consensus over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as Moscow and Beijing refused to endorse the closing statement condemning the war, leaving only 18 signatories.

    Western nations were successful in presenting a united front on the War in Ukraine during the G20 meeting, which became the de facto dominant theme on the sidelines of the summit. At the political level, the war’s frontlines now extend beyond Europe.

    The war in Ukraine has led to a surge in the European interest towards Asia, especially India. Not only for political and foreign policy experts, but also for European businesses and a wide audience for whom it has become clear that events in Asia can have a very rapid and very real impact on European livelihoods.

    The war in Ukraine has revealed doubts about China’s reliability as a source of raw materials and as a starting point for many European supply chains. If there were a conflict or all-out war over Taiwan, independently of whether EU members would participate in possible sanctions or not, global supply chains and the wider global economy would be severely impacted.

    As a result, Europeans are searching for alternative business options, and many eyes are on India, the current chair of the G20. India is aiming for a growth rate of 6.5% in the upcoming year and is managing the digital transition of its economy very successfully. The example of India’s digital revolution may become a model to be potentially applied in Africa. Optimism surrounding the economy, which seems to have disappeared in the EU, at least temporarily, is very much alive in India today – as in many countries of the Global South.

    But Asia is not the only continent where development is speeding up rapidly, despite the challenges. Africa, once considered a lost continent, is enjoying rapid growth, and a new middle class is emerging. China has been investing in Africa intensively for decades and only now is the West waking up. The United States is actively reflecting on its strategies to counter the Chinese surge for raw materials. Unfortunately, EU actors have some catching up to do in this area.

    Beyond Africa, Europeans have viewed Latin America as a natural ally for historical, cultural and linguistic reasons. Unfortunately, this has not led to constantly strengthening relations but rather to complacency, despite the efforts of Spain and Portugal to remind the rest of Europe about the importance of Latin America. Again, China has increased its presence in Latin America massively, while the non-ratification of the EU-Mercosur trade deal is becoming an embarrassment for Europeans.

    Despite positive developments in the Global South, many problems remain. The COVID-19 epidemic took a heavier toll there than in the West, since the Global South had fewer possibilities to mitigate the economic impact by taking on debt, as the West did. Millions of people fell back into poverty or lost their jobs. Measured by sustainable development goals, the planet suffered a setback of a couple of years. Thus, one can see why the economic opportunities offered by China are attractive to many developing nations.

    The EU needs to once again prioritise global trade deals, including the ones currently being negotiated with India, Indonesia and the Philippines. It is evident that Europe cannot repeat the mistakes it made with China on trade with other global players. Global trade deals now carry political importance, which was not always the case some years ago.

    Making the EU a global player is not only about complex trade deals, negotiations over UN resolutions and investments. Increasing the visibility and understanding of political developments in the Global South, and developing a presence and contacts are the starting points of being politically impactful. Individual politicians and organisations can play an important role.

    The challenge for the EU is that globally, Europe is still seen largely through its member states. To counter that, EU member states must coordinate their global actions better. Even if done outside the EU framework, French president Macron’s proposal for a joint visit with chancellor Scholz to China was an example of a more effective approach. However, it was opposed by the German chancellor at that time.

    The EU and its politicians have a long list of challenges; domestic and European-level economic problems, the war in Ukraine and the challenges within its eastern and southern neighbours. Crucial as these issues are, it is increasingly clear that to have that “global role” and to secure European political and economic interests, Europe needs to be globally as active as the US, China and even Russia. And as a result, Europe needs to be able to pick a side – and increasingly to be able to take a position on the World’s problems.

    Tomi Huhtanen European Union Foreign Policy

    Tomi Huhtanen

    The EU’s Interests Today Require Stronger Ties With the Global South


    07 Mar 2023

  • A version of this text was originally published in French in Le Point.

    The Russian war against Ukraine will end, as did every war before it. The current intensity of Russia’s war effort is not sustainable. About half of its heavy armaments have already been destroyed or captured by their Ukrainian adversary after the first year. Only North Korea and Iran are supporting Russia with ammunition and drones. Ukraine, on the other hand, is receiving increasingly sophisticated weapons from the entire West, including decisive assistance by the United States. Previous experience from the First and Second World War tells us that this can be crucial.

    Escalation to nuclear war entails the risk of Russia’s self-destruction. Such a decision is not impossible, but unlikely. Putin designed the conflict to severely damage Ukraine with little effect on Russia itself, in order to preserve and potentially even shore up his own political support base. Russian military doctrine foresees nuclear arms to protect the very existence of Russia. But Russia’s very existence is not under threat, only its imperial and colonial ambitions are.

    It is now reasonable and necessary to start reflecting about the day after.

    The United States comes out of this conflict very much strengthened. Its credibility as a protective power is re-established. Weaknesses shown in the past are pushed into the background of our collective memory. Leaving Afghanistan to the Taliban and the passivity of the Obama administration after the use of chemical weapons by the Russian-allied Assad regime in Syria are no longer the last word. China has taken note, as have Pacific countries who feel threatened by Xi Jinping’s geopolitical ambitions. A military attack against Taiwan by China now seems like less of an easy undertaking or a foregone conclusion.

    Joe Biden has proven to be an impressive leader and established the basis for a second mandate as President of the United States. Far from being “Sleepy Joe”, he provided serene leadership based on his decades of experience as a United States Senator, Vice President under Barack Obama, and his proven track record as a good friend of Europe.

    NATO is not a direct party to the war, but has served as the forum for the coordination of unprecedented weapons deliveries. If it ever was brain dead, it has risen quite remarkably from its ashes. Central and Eastern European states, on the conflict’s borders, feel confirmed in their long-held convictions that in moments of real danger, NATO and the United States are essential. German and French hesitations have contributed to that.

    And still, objective limitations have become obvious also for NATO. In an age where everything is being weaponised, the European Union has a toolkit that NATO does not have. The European Union took the decision to provide a home to millions of Ukrainian war refugees under especially privileged conditions. It passed sanctions on Russia of an intensity never seen before. It provides financial support similar to that of the United States of America. The European Union connected the Ukrainian electricity grid to its own in record time. And perhaps most important: it provides hope to Ukraine by opening up a perspective for membership. NATO and the European Union are obviously complementary, now with a growing role for the European Union.

    But our shortcomings have equally become obvious. The neglect of our military is appalling, the loss of industrial base for armaments creates a near complete dependence on the United States and even South Korea for urgent deliveries. In the absence of a guaranteed demand, German Leopard tanks must now be built one by one and by hand, like in the pre-industrial age. We are paying the price of the European Union not having an internal market for armament products, no common technical standards, no common export policy for arms. The taxpayer is the first, but not the only victim of armaments nationalism. Will we learn?

    The war in Ukraine has also demonstrated the critical role of transport and logistics. Russian tanks queuing for tens of kilometres outside of Kyiv, having run out of petrol and easy prey for Ukrainian anti-tank weapons, are still in our collective memory. All together, the member states of the European Union would probably be sufficiently equipped to defend against a conventionally much weaker Russia after this conflict. But would we be able to transport French and Spanish equipment in adequate time to where it is needed? Or would bridges be too weak and tunnels too small? This is exactly where the European Union can play a major role with its own infrastructure programmes.

    The unprecedented regime of sanctions, cutting Russian goods, services and financial flows off from international exchanges, essentially in the space of a weekend also raise serious question marks for the future. What if China would indeed attack Taiwan? Sanctions would probably not fall very much behind what was agreed against Russia in order to uphold the international order. Except in that scenario, our economies are much more intertwined. Which risks are we ready to take and which ones need urgent reduction through friendshoring or homeshoring?

    After the war in Ukraine, the United States will have to focus their military efforts on where they are challenged the most, i.e., China and the Pacific. The build-up of an American-led alliance system in Asia is already advancing quickly, involving Japan, Australia and India as key partners. Europeans will have to compensate conventionally in Europe as long as Russia does not give up its imperial ambitions. Poland has already taken major investment decisions, spending at least 3 percent of its GDP on the military. And yes, we do now have a European army: the army of Ukraine defending our freedom and security as well.

    We are turning the page of a 30-year period since the end of the Soviet Union during which the lowest price was the lead paradigm. Companies relocated to wherever the workforce was available, also providing important technology transfers, with little regard for country or system. The access of hundreds of millions of new workers to the global labour market kept inflation low and consumers happy. The authoritarian hardening of both Russia and China, paired with an aggressive stand towards their neighbours, now brings this period to an end. Security has replaced the price paradigm.

    Klaus Welle Defence EU-Russia Foreign Policy Security Ukraine

    Klaus Welle

    When the War in Ukraine Ends…

    Blog - Ukraine

    24 Feb 2023

  • As the war in Ukraine approaches its disheartening one-year mark, much has changed in terms of its outlook and our own perceptions. While leading experts predicted a swift capitulation of the government, Ukraine’s quintessential bend-but-don’t-break resilience has given rise to hope and opportunities. But this has come at a tremendous cost.

    Since the launch of the invasion, the loss of life on both sides has been staggering. The U.S.’s top military advisor, Gen. Mark Milley, has estimated that both Russia and Ukraine have lost around 100,000 soldiers each, in addition to roughly 40,000 Ukraine civilians, with mass graves and other horrors being discovered regularly.

    Of course, in addition to the Ukrainian people’s awe-inspiring sheer will for freedom, impressive ability to quickly learn and wage combined warfare, it is Western armaments that are making the profound difference, most notably from the United States and the UK.

    While the European Union reacted with notable speed and unison (especially by EU standards) and perhaps, somewhere along the way, coming just a little bit closer to defining the age-old riddle of “what is European identity?”, the war would be long lost if not for the military support for Ukraine from the outside world. Reflecting on this, the EU needs to realise that this very moment is pivotal in the war. It needs to invest in its own security by way of investing in and securing Ukraine’s victory, at whatever cost.

    To date, the U.S. has pledged and delivered over 25 billion euros to Ukraine in lethal aid. The UK by comparison, the second-largest single donor, has committed 2.6 billion euros to date. The European Union however, a collective of 27 countries, has committed only 3.6 billion, despite its immediate proximity to the conflict and boasting of being the world’s largest economy.

    The latest saga that especially underlines this unbalanced dichotomy is the months-long debate and final agreement to send tanks. Was it monumental for the EU? Absolutely! But that achievement still has many caveats, most of all being that the actual final arrival of those tanks won’t be for months and will require at least 6-8 weeks of training. Meanwhile, there are already signs of weakening, or the watering down of those pledges, most notably by the Netherlands and Denmark who announced that they will not send Leopard 2’s, all while France remains completely absent on the question of sending its own tanks. It seems that, once again, the EU is moving at its steady pace of two steps forward, one step back.

    The timeline for those tanks and other heavy weapons systems means that Ukraine won’t have this firepower to assist in Russia’s imminent spring offensive, at least in the numbers needed to make an immediate impact, and could also predicate Ukraine’s ability to counter Russia and launch its own planned offensive.

    We are at a point in this war where we are taking Ukraine’s relative success for granted. Yes, Bakhmut holds (for now – but not likely for long) and Ukraine has not only stalled Russia’s invasion, but also made considerable gains to recapture territory. Russia’s next offensive, however, will not be like the others: it will have learned from earlier mistakes, become more desperate for victories and, in the wake of pressure mounting on the battlefield and at home, Russia will attempt to bring the war to a crescendo.

    Collectively the West, but especially the EU, must dramatically pivot from its general reluctance and painstakingly slow conditional military support for Ukraine (e.g., the debates on defensive vs offensive weapons, long-range missiles, and most recently tanks) and offer everything it can to support Ukraine’s victory. Most importantly, this involves the ultimate taboo – sending fighter jets.

    Russia may have demonstrated significant blunders on the battlefield to date, but Vladimir Putin and his generals are well-aware that their window for success is limited and closing. Despite dragging its feet as it approaches each major hurdle, collectively, the West continues to send shipments of more – and superior to Russia’s – military aid. In seeing this sustained support, Russia will become more desperate for gains and will throw everything it has into this offensive, on multiple fronts but in the east especially, perhaps even from the north towards Kyiv in an attempt to yet again force a surrender or bring Ukraine to the negotiating table.

    The sooner the West can send more and, in particular, more-advanced weaponry to Ukraine, the quicker we’ll see the results on the battlefield, bringing the war to an end sooner rather than later. In fact, tipping the scale enough by sending tanks (in the hundreds) and fighter jets, could enable Ukraine to reach striking distance of Crimea – a launching pad for much of Russia’s operations. Retaking Crimea, or even giving the perception that it’s within reach, could instead force Russia to the negotiating table with Ukraine holding most of the bargaining power, and would strike a major blow to Putin’s credibility.

    Regardless of the results from either Russia’s or Ukraine’s next offensive, and their respective abilities to counter them, or how much ground is seized and lost in the process, the next few months are going to be the bloodiest on the battlefield. The West, and particularly the European Union, must seize the moment at this pivotal juncture and overcome its reluctance to fully support Ukraine with all the weapons it needs to defeat Russia. Supporting Ukraine’s defence means investing in our own, after all. And after shielding us from Russia’s onslaught for almost a year, don’t we owe it to Ukraine to do more to end the war and show that we’re all in?

    Gavin Synnott Defence EU-Russia Foreign Policy Ukraine

    Gavin Synnott

    Russia’s War Against Ukraine is at a Pivotal Junction – It’s Time for the EU to Decide if it’s all in

    Blog - Ukraine

    16 Feb 2023

  • As the saying goes, for all the time of its peaceful existence, Switzerland has only produced the cuckoo clock. This is not correct, of course, both because the cuckoo clock was invented in Bavaria, and, more importantly, because Switzerland has contributed significantly to Europe’s political development. The country is not only the earliest and brightest example of republican and federal governance, but its legal and political ties with the EU have also created the entangled concept of bilateralism. This dynamic relationship has worked well for many years, so it may come as a surprise to discover how fragile it is, especially at a time when every deal must be sealed not only between reasonable counterparts but also with the approval of the respective electorates.

    This paper examines how diplomatic dialogue between the EU and Switzerland has evolved since the beginning of the 1990s. Even though traditionally predictable and moderate, both partners have recently encountered difficulties in achieving a comprehensive trade and legal relationship. This would not have been an issue if the existing framework was still reliable, which is currently not the case. Over the past year and a half there has been increasing confusion as to why the EU and Switzerland cannot find agreement, as well as a demonstration of the adverse consequences of damaged trust. By explaining the context and the possible causes of the political stalemate, several takeaways are suggested as ways to resolve it successfully.

    Foreign Policy

    Relations Between the EU and Switzerland: Too Much to Lose, Too Little to Negotiate?

    Policy Briefs

    26 Jan 2023

  • It’s like two exceedingly polite gentlemen (or for those with long memories, Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat) insisting the other goes through the door first. ‘After you,’ says the US to Europeans when asked if it will send tanks to Ukraine. ‘No, after you,’ replies Germany.  In the end, like Arafat and Barak, the tanks will get to Ukraine, but not before a couple more rounds of indecisive shuffling.

    Undignified this may be, it is also notable for what it isn’t. Since Russia’s full-scale invasion on February 24th last year, two groups of people have exceeded expectations.

    The first and obviously most important has been Ukraine itself. Its armed forces have fought well, not only bravely. Its state institutions continue to operate, with railways restoring services to liberated territory within days, and utility workers putting in heroic efforts to keep electricity and heating supplies going even as Russia tries to destroy infrastructure with missiles and Iranian drones.

    The second is Europeans in general. As spring turned to summer and the initial shock of the invasion began to wear off, it became difficult to avoid articles fretting about ‘war fatigue.’ Would Europeans be willing to tolerate higher energy prices, or other disruption, while Ukraine fought? Would they start demanding their leaders push Ukraine to abandon provinces to Russian occupation so that their power bills could be reduced?

    It turns out that other Europeans, and not just Ukrainians, are made of tougher, more adaptable stuff than was imagined. Across the continent, people have welcomed Ukrainian refugees (and despite the assiduous efforts of Russian disinformation, continue to support them). Poles and Lithuanians have even crowdfunded drones. Others support by funding generators, trucks, body armour and other non-lethal equipment for soldiers. Anti-sanctions demonstrations turn out to have been instigated by Russian agitators. Pro-Russian politicians, like Italy’s Matteo Salvini, have been marginalised, and even German industry managed to keep output close to pre-war levels despite drastically cutting demand for gas (in good news for economic theory, it turns out that gas was so cheap that much of it was wasted).

    As history shows, democracies are slow to fight, and prefer to spend their money elsewhere. Norman Angell’s The Great Illusion argued —in 1910— that the world had become so interdependent that war had become unthinkable. Intervention in Bosnia came too late for the boys and men of Srebrenica.  UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson justified defence cuts to a British Parliamentary committee on the grounds that “the old concepts of fighting big tank battles on European land mass are over” — in November 2021.  We have difficulty believing there are people who prefer destruction to peace, even when, as with Vladimir Putin, they have provided no shortage of evidence to demonstrate it.

    Yet once we realise democracy must be defended, we turn out to be extraordinarily resolute in seeing things through. Though the EU can only act in foreign policy through consensus, it has supplied huge quantities of military and civilian aid to Ukraine. The euphemistically-named European Peace Facility has been topped up and a new €18 billion macro-financial support instrument for Ukraine enacted, overcoming objections from Hungary, despite the requirement for unanimity in common foreign and security policy (CFSP).

    Russia’s sheer barbarism, from the medieval torture in cities it occupies, to the World War I-style destruction by artillery of those it cannot, has fortified public opinion. Though most Europeans are afraid their lives may change because of the war, as shown in the latest Eurobarometer: ’When thinking about the war in Ukraine and its potential consequences, close to two-thirds of EU citizens (65%) are not confident that their lives will continue unchanged’ — 74% of the same sample said they supported Ukraine and 73% were in favour of EU policies towards Ukraine. 

    It seems that the more the war goes on, the stronger public support for Ukraine will be.

    Garvan Walshe Foreign Policy Ukraine

    Garvan Walshe

    The Opposite of War Fatigue – how European Support for Ukraine Keeps Getting Stronger

    Blog - Ukraine

    17 Jan 2023

  • Brexit EU Member States European Union Foreign Policy UK United Kingdom

    Bridge the Channel – December 2022

    Bridge the Channel - Multimedia

    20 Dec 2022

  • For many Europeans, the clear positioning of Central Asian countries against Russia’s war on Ukraine during the last Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting in September 2022 in Tashkent came as a surprise. Hadn’t those former Soviet republics been under Moscow’s tight military and economic control, even after 1991 and the collapse of the communist empire? The reactions on the European side show that – as in the case of Ukraine – the vast Eurasian territory between the Caspian Sea and the Western Chinese border never received much attention after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. But it deserved it, given its geopolitical role in the heart of Eurasia. Much more than Ukraine, the five “Stan” countries – Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan – were largely seen as Russia’s backyard and, in recent years, the new forefront of China’s “journey to the West”. From a historical perspective, they always seemed doomed to be pawns on the chessboard of “great power games”, never able to act as sovereign countries.

    To be entirely fair, the EU cannot be blamed for not having dealt at all with this region and the countries within it, at least on the level of policy concepts: from Partnership and Co-operation Agreements since the late 1990s, to the first EU Strategy for a new Partnership with Central Asia in 2007, to the most recent “New EU Strategy on Central Asia” of June 2019. Yet, one can hardly say that the EU has gained significant political and economic leverage in the region over the last 20 years. What went wrong? What are some realistic objectives for the EU to achieve in Central Asia?

    Over the last 10 years, Central Asia itself has been in a process of dramatic change in many aspects. Constitutional changes are slowly transforming political systems, even if the scope of change, speed and stability differ massively: from remarkable reforms in Kazakhstan to limit the power of the Presidency and strengthen political parties, to a more reluctant Uzbekistan, to an unstable Kyrgyzstan and a “frozen” Tajikistan, where no signs of any political and economic reform can be found.

    A young and still growing population is increasingly demanding political participation and a fair share of national income, in particular from energy and raw material revenues. In the case of Kazakhstan, two-thirds of revenues come from oil and gas-related products and services. Turkmenistan exports more than 80% of its natural resources to China. That striking overdependence on natural resources calls for the diversification and modernisation of their economic structures.     

    Having no direct access to any maritime trade routes, the countries’ geographical position comes along with massive dependencies on Russia and China, be it in logistics, labour migration, or security. The development of a so-called “multi-vector” or “third-party” foreign policy is therefore a key concept of their international strategies. Europe has always been seen as the obvious third partner, although in recent years, Turkey and other Middle Eastern countries have made significant inroads through economic investment and religious activities.

    Europe, however, didn’t follow a sustained path of engagement during the last 20 years. Even the most recent meeting between Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on the sidelines of COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, focused (again) on energy and logistics.

    This narrow angle of cooperation is way below the expectations and opportunities of Europe’s counterparts in the region. One cannot build a strategic partnership only based on the needs of one side. What Central Asian nations demand are much broader platforms and layers of exchange, yielding partnerships of mutual benefit.

    Even if energy cooperation received renewed attention due to the current supply crisis in Europe, it cannot be in European and Central Asian interests to cement the dominance of fossil fuels in Central Asian economies. Helping these countries diversify their energy resources includes the massive expansion of renewable energies and enhancing domestic value chains. This would serve both their domestic economies as well as Europe’s interests in creating a more stable and sustainable energy supply – and counterbalance Russian and Chinese influence. Central Asia is also rich in rare earth materials, such as uranium or neodymium, , which could help Europe reduce its dependency on China and ensure the basis for the continent’s energy transition.

    But Europe’s cooperation with Central Asia must go far beyond the export of primary goods. Given the central role actors such as Kazakhstan will play in the emerging pan-Eurasian transportation system, Europe will have to engage in logistics as well. In a similar spirit, digitalisation should not be left to Chinese companies, and the same goes for the financial and education sectors. All this kind of engagement must be framed by a deeper political exchange, not only by governments, but also by parliaments and local political bodies.

    Admittedly, Europe will not become a major power broker on the Eurasian chessboard in the foreseeable future. This shouldn’t discourage the Union and its member states from presenting themselves as a reliable third partner, who is not seeking hegemony but rather to fairly share the fruits of cooperation. Europe should not miss the Eurasian train, which is quickly leaving the station.

    Peter Hefele Economy Foreign Policy

    Peter Hefele

    EU-Central Asia: An Underdeveloped Relationship


    15 Dec 2022

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    13 Dec 2022

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  • On 17 October, the EU agreed to set up a Military Assistance Mission (EUMAM) in support of Ukraine. It is a response to a request from Ukraine, which has sought EU support for months to help train its armed forces. EUMAM will bring the Union’s military training activities into a new, more geopolitical territory.

    Ukraine originally asked the EU for a military training programme in July 2021, at a time when Moscow had partially withdrawn its forces from the country’s border following an initial military build-up in Spring. While some EU countries backed the request, others (e.g., Italy) at the time saw the deployment of a military training mission to Ukraine as an unnecessary provocation toward Russia.

    After Russia attacked Ukraine in February 2022, mentalities have changed, and earlier sensitivities have faded. The EU has inter alia agreed to provide Ukraine €3.1 billion worth of assistance through the ironically named European Peace Facility to help the country acquire lethal capabilities and other equipment that it needs to defend its sovereignty. Several EU countries (and partners such as the UK and the US) have also launched national efforts to help train Ukraine’s armed forces and provided weapons to the country.

    The agreement to set up EUMAM came after weeks of discussions. The initial political agreement on the mission was reached at the 29-30 August informal defence ministerial meeting in Prague. At the time, the European External Action Service envisaged that EUMAM could start “at the end of September/beginning of October”.

    Due to a dispute among EU countries over the mission’s command structure, the establishment of EUMAM was delayed. Hungary did not participate in the final decision, choosing to take advantage of the EU Treaty’s rarely used “constructive abstention” clause (i.e., Article 31(1)). It enables any EU country to abstain from a common foreign, security or defence policy decision, meaning that it will not veto the decision, but neither will it participate in its implementation.

    Once it has been launched, EUMAM will contribute to enhancing the military capability of Ukraine’s armed forces. The mission will provide (1) training to Ukraine’s armed forces personnel at different levels, (2) specialised training, (3) training to the military reserve component of Ukraine’s armed forces (i.e., the Territorial Defence Forces), and (4) coordination for EU countries’ existing Ukraine-related military training efforts.

    More specifically, EUMAM will train around 15,000 Ukrainian troops in two years to boost the country’s ability to defend itself against Russia. According to officials,  12,000 Ukrainians will receive basic military training, while another 2,800 are set to receive specialised training through EUMAM. These initial target figures, as well as EUMAM’s deployment period, can be increased later if necessary.

    Given the ongoing war, EUMAM will not operate in Ukraine itself but within the EU (i.e., in Germany and Poland) until the Council decides otherwise – representing an interesting “first” for land-based EU military operations, which have so far operated exclusively outside the Union. This is because Article 42(1) of the EU Treaty states that the Union may use military and civilian assets in the framework of its Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) “outside the Union”, not within it.

    In practice, the Treaty requirement for CSDP operations and missions to operate “outside the Union” has been withering for several years. The former EU naval operation Sophia as well as IRINI, its ongoing successor, have operated within the territorial waters of EU countries (e.g., Greece, Italy, Malta) while fighting human smuggling and trafficking and enforcing the UN arms embargo on Libya in the Mediterranean. This shows that CSDP can adapt to Europe’s evolving security environment.

    However, training Ukraine’s armed forces will be a new kind of challenge for CSDP. Through EUMAM, the EU will provide military training to a country fighting an active war against a great power aggressor. This is something that the EU as an organisation has never done or experienced before. In the past, EU military training missions have provided training primarily to the armed forces of countries in the Sahel and sub-Saharan Africa that have been fighting terrorists and various types of militia groups. The stakes will be higher in EUMAM’s case.

    This suggests that CSDP is (slowly) becoming more geopolitical in its character. When the EU first began to deploy CSDP missions and operations in the Western Balkans and sub-Saharan Africa in 2003, the Union was highly selective about the conflicts and crises in which it chose to intervene. Early CSDP operations also served the EU’s interests mainly indirectly by, for example, limiting flows of people to the EU from conflict areas by improving safety and security in their areas of operation.

    The EU was also risk-averse, preferring operations and missions that were, in a sense, guaranteed successes. The Union either took over existing NATO operations in the Western Balkans (i.e., operations Concordia and Althea) after the Alliance had already done the hard work of stabilising the countries in question; or the mandates of EU operations were so strictly defined and time-limited (e.g., Operation Artemis, EUFOR RD Congo) that “success” was virtually guaranteed.

    Since the late 2000s, CSDP operations have slowly become more interest-driven in their character. The first genuinely interest-driven CSDP operation has arguably been Atalanta, which was launched in 2008 to fight maritime pirates off the coast of Somalia. This ongoing operation contributed inter alia to the security of Europe’s maritime trade at a time when the global financial crisis was already causing turmoil in markets around the world. Another example is Sophia, through which the EU sought to limit the unregulated flow of people across the Mediterranean in 2015-2020.

    EUMAM, however, will be neither risk-free nor a guaranteed success. It will further increase the EU’s involvement, as an organisation, in the Ukraine war, which may cause Russia to respond. Existing EU military training missions in Mali and the Central African Republic, where Russia is an influential actor, have already suffered from Russian-led disinformation campaigns. The Union must anticipate that EUMAM might also become a Russian target and ensure that sufficient resilient measures will be in place once the mission is launched. Overall, the EU’s decision to establish EUMAM demonstrated the Union’s continued commitment to Ukraine in its time of need. The remaining military-strategic phase of the operation’s planning process should be wrapped up as quickly as possible to ensure that Ukraine can start benefiting from EUMAM’s training activities at the earliest possible moment.

    Niklas Nováky Defence EU-Russia Foreign Policy Ukraine

    Niklas Nováky

    With the new Ukraine Mission, EU Military Training Becomes More Geopolitical

    Blog - Ukraine

    21 Oct 2022

  • On 24 February 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops to invade Ukraine. In the televised address he gave justifying his actions, Putin stated the “operation” had the purpose of protecting people facing humiliation and discrimination due to their Russian origins.

    This rhetoric lies at the core of the concept of “Russkiy Mir” (Russian World). This worldview holds that Russia is not simply a state, but in fact the protector of Russian civilisation both at home and abroad. One can trace the roots of this idea to the post-Soviet era, when it was conceived as an ideological, political and geopolitical basis to legitimise Russia’s new domestic and foreign policy.

    A bit further South, in Ankara, a similar and equally antagonistic concept which helps keep boundaries unclear was created by Turkish Navy officers and endorsed by Turkish elites and the wider public. “Mavi Vatan” (Blue Homeland) has, since 2019, become the spearhead of Turkish revisionism in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean, mainly targeting Greece and Cyprus; and therefore, the European Union’s vital interests and security.

    One could wonder what the connection is between these two doctrines. First and foremost, both consider Russia and Turkey respectively as the focal points of the international system, while defying their neighbours alongside any notion of international law. They take as fact that history treated Russia and Turkey unfairly and their borders should be re-examined. On that basis, Russia annexed Crimea in 2014; today, Erdoğan is taking aim at the 1923 Lausanne Treaty that defined Turkey’s modern borders. But the similarities do not end here; let’s run through a few of them.

    Fear of encirclement: Both countries fear external enemies are trying to restrict them to their current borders. They also interpret the West as using proxy states such as Ukraine and Greece in order to complete their encirclement. It is difficult for the Kremlin and Aksaray to understand how smaller countries can act outside their sphere of influence. 

    Imperial past and hegemonic ambitions: Moscow and Ankara perceive themselves as the heirs to an imperial past, which they contrast to their current status. Sovereign countries, formerly part of their respective empires, are only seen as territories of their vital space. They try to play a hegemonic role that almost always exceeds their actual military, economic and geopolitical strength.

    Manipulation of religion: The Russian Orthodox Church has always been one of the most essential foreign policy tools for “Russkiy Mir”, particularly in the Balkans and neighbouring Slavic states. The Czarist dream of Moscow as the “Third Rome” is also a very convenient concept for Erdoğan’s regime, who would enjoy seeing the Ecumenical Patriarchate losing its historical influence among the global Orthodox community.

    Similarly, Erdoğan’s attempt to present himself as the protector of all Muslims has found fertile ground in the Balkans and the Middle East, while it has garnered strong reactions from states such as Egypt, the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia.

    Demilitarisation: Russia’s denial of Ukraine’s NATO perspective and a possible Western military presence was one of the reasons that led Moscow to attack Kyiv.

    Similarly, Turkey alleges that the Eastern Greek islands should be demilitarised, otherwise, Greek sovereignty over the islands might be called into question. However, there is no connection between both issues in the Treaties (Lausanne 1923, Paris 1947). In addition, it is hard to see how a few islands with a population of 400.000 people pose any kind of threat to Turkey, a state which has invaded and occupied part of Cyprus since 1974, maintains one of the strongest formations of the Turkish Army (the second largest in NATO) immediately across Greece’s waters, has invoked an automatic “casus belli” against Greece if it exercises its sovereign rights in the Aegean and whose leadership recently unleashed direct military threats against an EU member.

    Minorities/Human rights: Russkiy Mir perceives Russians as a territorially divided peoples which Russia should unite, making the protection of all Russian-speakers and their rights of utmost priority to the Russian state. This perception has been at the heart of Russia’s aggressive behaviour since 2008. Obviously, the widespread violation of human rights, discrimination against ethnic and other minorities, as well as the torture and prosecution of opposition figures through sham trials do not bother Russian leadership.

    Similar trends have emerged in Turkey, especially after the failed coup d’état in 2016. Although Turkey condemns Greek authorities for allegedly mistreating the Muslim minority protected by the Lausanne Treaty, it is worth mentioning that Greek Muslims have doubled their numbers since 1923 while actively participating in the country’s political, economic and social life. Conversely, the Greeks of Istanbul, Gokceada/Imvros and Bozcaada/Tenedos (also protected by the Lausanne Treaty) have regularly fallen victim to prosecution and deportation, resulting in the reduction of their number from 200.000 a century ago to 3.000 today.

    Hybrid war/Fake News: Both regimes have extensively used means of hybrid warfare and disinformation. From Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election and President Erdoğan’s “advice” to Turkish voters living in the Netherlands and Germany, to the weaponisation of refugees and immigrants in Evros (2020) and at the Belarus-Poland border (2021-2022), the aim never changes. To distort reality, and penetrate and destabilise neighbouring countries and the West.

    Undoubtedly, both countries are very important for the stability of the international system and channels of communication should always remain open. However, it seems that especially in the case of Turkey, there has been a clear foreign policy shift. Hardly anyone believes Turkey is part of the Western security system anymore. Its Eurasian preference is evident in the statements not only of the government, but of the entire political class.

    Europe and the West turned a blind eye to Russian aggression and revisionism for many years, with dreadful consequences; it would be catastrophic to allow this to happen once again in the Eastern Mediterranean. 

    Panos Tasiopoulos EU-Russia Foreign Policy Greece Mediterranean

    Panos Tasiopoulos

    ‘Russkiy Mir’ and ‘Mavi Vatan’: Two Sides of the Same Coin


    22 Sep 2022

  • At the 29-30 August informal defence ministerial meeting in Prague, EU countries agreed on the idea of establishing an EU Military Assistance Mission for Ukraine. The mission will help Ukraine’s armed forces meet their training needs and boost their capacities as the country continues to defend itself against Russia’s invasion.

    This isn’t the first time that the EU has discussed the establishment of such a mission in the framework of its Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). In a letter addressed to High Representative Josep Borrell in July 2021, Ukraine’s foreign and defence ministers, Dmytro Kuleba and Oleksii Reznikov, asked the EU for a military training programme to help train Ukrainian officers in response to Russia’s increased military activities along Ukraine’s border.

    At the time, EU countries could not agree on setting up such a mission. While some supported the idea, others saw it as an unnecessary provocation of Russia. The Union eventually decided to enhance Ukraine’s resilience and help strengthen the capacities of its armed forces by adopting a €31 million funding measure through the European Peace Facility (EPF).

    The EPF initially focused on non-lethal support by financing Ukrainian military medical units and field hospitals; engineering, mobility and logistics units, as well as cyber capabilities. Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion on 24 February 2022, this funding has broadened in scope to also help Ukraine acquire lethal capabilities and increased to €2.5 billion – half of the EPF’s budget line for 2021–2027.

    In the ensuing months, multiple EU countries have launched national efforts to help train Ukraine’s armed forces and to boost the country’s capacity to defend its sovereignty. These include inter alia Germany, Lithuania, Slovakia, and Spain. In addition, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, and Sweden are participating in a training programme organised by the UK.

    The EU itself has significant experience in conducting military training and advisory missions. At the time of writing, the Union is conducting four such missions, each of them in Africa: EUTM Mali, EUTM Mozambique, EUTM RCA in the Central African Republic, and EUTM Somalia. Their mandates range from strengthening their host countries’ defence institutions to training their armed forces.

    It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for EU military training missions. EUTM Mali’s credibility was damaged by the August 2020 coup d’état in the country. Both the Mali mission and EUTM RCA have also been forced to suspend some of their activities due to the increased presence of the Wagner Group, a Russian private military entity, in their host countries.

    Despite these challenges, it is generally seen that EU military training missions contribute positively to the effectiveness of their host country’s armed forces, especially when their host countries take political ownership of them. This will certainly be the case with Ukraine, which has expressed very explicitly its desire for an EU military training mission. The challenge is likely to be the unfamiliar context – training soldiers for a country defending its sovereignty against a great power aggressor.

    Fortunately, the EU already has experience in dealing with Ukraine through CSDP. Since 2014, the Union has also been conducting a civilian advisory mission (EUAM) in the country. It assists Ukraine in reforming its civilian security sector to weed out corruption and enhance the rule of law in the country. Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion, however, EUAM has not been able to fully implement its mandate in Ukraine’s territory.

    So far, the EU has said little about the mandate and scope of the planned Ukraine mission. In Prague, EU defence ministers simply agreed that the mission ‘should build on the existing bilateral [training] activities’ that EU countries have launched since February. It has been suggested that the mission could focus on enhancing the coherence of these activities and boosting coordination between them.

    This means that the EU also needs to coordinate the new mission with key non-EU partners, notably the UK and the US, who are also involved in training to Ukraine’s armed forces. This will be crucial in ensuring that there won’t be unnecessary overlaps between the new mission and the various existing training activities that have been launched since February. The EU mission needs to provide the maximum added value to Ukraine.

    For the mission to have this value, it needs to address the most urgent and concrete training needs of Ukraine’s armed forces. Kyiv has specified that it would like the mission to focus on areas such as medical support, sniper training, and sharing de-mining expertise. While medical support is unlikely to be controversial for EU countries, sniper training, in particular, might face opposition from several capitals.

    Perhaps with this in mind, Borrell has suggested that—in addition to medical support—the EU could help Ukraine in providing protection against nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Inevitably, the mandate of the new mission will reflect a political compromise between those EU countries that support it the most and those that are less enthusiastic about it. This has always been the case with CSDP missions because the Union decides on their deployment by unanimity.

    The EU has also expressed that the mission ‘should work at least tentatively in the territory of an EU member state.’ So far, all past and ongoing EU military missions have operated outside the Union’s territory. Article 42(1) of the Treaty on EU (TEU) also specifies that, in the framework of CSDP, the Union can use civilian and military assets ‘on missions outside the Union’.

    The Ukraine mission will therefore require a certain level of creative interpretation of the TEU if it is to become a CSDP mission and if it is to operate from the EU’s territory. The alternative would be to conduct the mission outside the CSDP framework as a type of coalition-of-the-willing or to have it based in a neighbouring non-EU country such as Moldova.

    In the case of the former, the Union could still have a role in the mission by creating a dedicated coordination cell for it, which could be based in the EU Military Staff. It would then mirror the EU’s Coordinated Maritime Presences concept, which enables the Union to coordinate EU countries’ national naval deployments in a given maritime area outside the CSDP framework.

    Given the urgency of Ukraine’s situation, the EU cannot follow its standard long-form CSDP planning process. The next meeting of the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council (FAC), the foreign ministers’ forum, will be on 17 October. However, the EU would like to establish and launch the mission before then. Borrell noted on 4 September that the Union could launch it ‘in the coming weeks’ if EU members agree. More concretely, the European External Action Service has envisaged that the mission could start ‘at the end of September/beginning of October’.

    This would be exceptionally fast for a CSDP deployment. In the case of EUTM Mozambique, the most recent EU military training mission, for example, it took the EU seven months to get from initial planning to the launch of the mission. In the case of most other CSDP missions and operations as well, their deployment processes have tended to take months, not weeks.

    To be able to establish and launch the new mission so quickly, the EU will have to use its ‘fast–track’ CSDP planning process. The fast-track process allows the Union to skip certain planning stages to deploy the mission quicker. The EU has already used it to facilitate the deployment of certain CSDP missions and operations. In 2015, for example, the Union used the fast-track process to facilitate the deployment of Operation Sophia in the Mediterranean.

    Furthermore, if the EU wants to launch the operation before the 17 October FAC, it has the options of approving the relevant Council Decision in a different Council configuration (e.g., General Affairs Council, Agriculture and Fisheries Council) or using the ‘written procedure’ in which the Council asks EU countries to approve the launch of the mission in writing. Whatever it decides to do, time is of the essence: Ukraine needs support now.

    Niklas Nováky Defence EU-Russia Foreign Policy Ukraine

    Niklas Nováky

    The EU Needs to Move Quickly With its Planned Ukraine Training Mission

    Blog - Ukraine

    16 Sep 2022

  • Writing in the Financial Times, France’s Minister of State for Europe Laurence Boone called for Europe to become a ‘global political power’. She’s right: we can’t defend ourselves from Russian aggression, secure our continent from state failure in the Middle East and North Africa, or protect the international trade on which our economy depends without acting jointly.

    But European countries directly threatened by Russia are sceptical of European defence integration because they aren’t sure France, Germany or Italy will back them up in a crisis.

    Together, we should have the means to defend our continent, even if the United States turns isolationist under a Trumpian president (or Trump himself), or is forced to commit the bulk of its forces in a conflict in Asia.

    If we include EU and NATO members, plus EU accession states, our continent has formidable capacity for exercising global power, including two nuclear deterrents,  five aircraft carriers, considerable advanced military technology, and with Ukraine, some of the most effective fighting forces on the planet.

    Common threat perception and political will are lacking however. Despite significant real French assistance to Ukraine including CAESAR howitzers, Macron has alarmed Central and Eastern Europe through his multiple fruitless telephone calls with Vladimir Putin, remarks stressing the importance of ‘not humiliating’ him, and, most crucially, his proposal for a European Political Community.

    This proposed Community is envisioned by Macron as a framework for both EU members and non-members to discuss and advance shared interests. Though Paris presents it as stepping stone to EU membership for Ukraine, the fact that it is open to the UK raises fears that it is intended as another version of an outer circle of membership, originally proposed by Mitterrand, to which France would have preferred to confine former Soviet satellites. It reinforces the sense, particularly strongly felt in Warsaw, that France, together with Germany, cannot be relied upon in a crisis.

    Until that fear is dispelled, the Nordics and East Europeans will prefer American boots on the ground to French attempts to build up European power.

    If France wants Europe to be a global power, it needs to convince Eastern Europeans it sees them as first class citizens of Europe, and that therefore European defence and foreign policy must make defence and deterrence against Russia its primary mission.

    Paris should drop its ‘European community’ half way house, and concentrate instead on reforming the EU so it can function efficiently in foreign affairs and defence with more than 30 members including Ukraine, and strengthening Europe’s military-industrial base so it can supply the materiel needed for high-intensity interstate conflict.

    Garvan Walshe Central and Eastern Europe Foreign Policy

    Garvan Walshe

    Europe as a Global Power? France Needs to Embrace Central and Eastern Europe First


    29 Aug 2022

  • As Russian forces regroup ahead of their imminent offensive in eastern Ukraine, now is the time for decisive action to force Moscow to re-evaluate the cost of its unprovoked war and any future attacks. Time is of the essence. Russia must be dealt such insurmountable losses, at home and on the battlefield, that it loses the ability to sustain this war.

    As a result of Ukraine’s relative success countering Russian attacks to date, it is estimated that more than 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in just seven weeks, surpassing the death toll of the entire, decade-long, Soviet-Afghan war. Meanwhile, as many as 680 Russian tanks, over 2,000 armoured vehicles, and 150 aircraft have reportedly been destroyed. These significant losses have led some analysists to conclude that Russia’s military is vastly overestimated. This is a misconception. Russian military superiority relies heavily on combined arms warfare, primarily via modernised battalion tactical groups. These formations are designed to take on similarly large battalions, namely those of NATO, combining speed, versatility, and firepower, to effectively steamroll opponents. But they have a major weakness: they lack infantry units to cover their flanks. As a result, hit-and-run guerrilla tactics have proven particularly effective and have played a key role in Ukraine’s ability to inflict heavy losses. This advantage, however, will not last forever.

    After failing to take Kyiv, Russian forces will now throw all their might at the already-war-torn eastern portion of Ukraine in a desperate attempt to declare some kind of success. Its military will learn from their mistakes, tighten supply lines and close ranks, with perhaps even more flagrant disregard for civilian lives.

    Meanwhile, since the start of Russia’s war, the EU has moved at warp speed, by EU standards, to improve its security and defence capabilities. It has approved the Strategic Compass, a process initiated in 2020, that sets out the EU’s strategic vision and security objectives over the next 5 to 10 years. Among them, its first-ever rapid deployment contingent, of up to 5,000 troops – a building block that should not be undervalued. At the national level, too, many EU members are granting additional attention to their defence policies at staggering levels. Germany, for example, who has remained almost painstakingly pacifist since joining NATO, announced a historic €100 billion defence budget.

    NATO has also made substantial progress as of late, developing its own defence capacity. Herein lies the largest of many miscalculations made by Putin in this war. In a matter of weeks, he has managed to succeed in what Donald Trump could not achieve in four years: he has made NATO great again. In a sign of the times, even the historically neutral Nordic countries of Finland and Sweden appear set to join as early as this summer.

    For all it’s worth, however, many of these developments, including NATO’s substantial troop increase on the EU’s eastern flank, now at 40,000, will only serve as a deterrent for Russia against EU and/or NATO members, and will not slow Russia’s war in Ukraine, or prevent more atrocities from being committed there.

    What Ukraine needs now, while Russia is regrouping, is more shipments of lethal aid ahead of the decisive battles that lie ahead. Crucial to Ukraine’s successful guerrilla tactics have been the man-portable air-defence systems supplied by Western allies, such as the Javelin, NLAW, and Stinger, which have denied Russia air superiority and stalled potential ground assaults. Additionally, the Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone – which will likely become the hottest-selling weapon system on the market following its demonstrated field success – has enabled Ukraine to destroy entire columns of vehicles from afar, coordinate effective artillery barrages and monitor Russian troop movements.

    But these weapons will not be enough for what could be the deciding chapter of this war. Ukraine desperately needs shipments of heavy weapons before Russia launches its next assault. Guerrilla tactics alone will not stall Russian forces in Ukraine’s eastern landscape, which is dominated by open fields. Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has echoed this call, indirectly clashing with Chancellor Olaf Scholz who has been accused of delaying deliveries of tanks to Ukraine. Czechia and Slovakia have already responded, along with pledges by Poland and the Baltic nations, and an additional $800 million in US support. Other EU members must follow suit while this equipment can still play a deciding factor.

    Finally, what Ukraine needs most is for the EU to stop financing this war for Russia, effectively enabling it to sustain the conflict. The impressive sum that the EU has already committed in military aid – €1 billion with possibly another €500 million in the works – is insufficient. Though this feat marks the first time that the EU has supplied lethal weaponry to a third country, that amount is dwarfed by the €35 billion that it has paid to Russia since the start of the war for its energy imports – nearly Russia’s entire annual defence budget.

    Ultimately, Ukraine’s fight is our fight, as Europeans and proponents of democracy. The window for the EU to have a meaningful impact in the battles to come is small. While Russia regroups, we must step up support for Ukraine, for the sake of their future and our own. As Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba put it, “Either you help us now, and I am speaking about days … or your help will come too late.”

    Gavin Synnott Defence Foreign Policy Ukraine

    Gavin Synnott

    The Clock is Ticking – Ukraine Needs Urgent Support Ahead of Russia’s Next Offensive

    Blog - Ukraine

    14 Apr 2022

  • 1. What is Putin’s end-goal? His rhetoric hints at regime change, but he has stated he does not wish to occupy Ukraine. What to make of these mixed messages?

    José María Aznar, former Prime Minister of Spain: President Vladimir Putin’s objectives in Ukraine have shifted, from trying to influence Ukraine and prevent its entry into the Transatlantic Alliance and its rapprochement with the West, to invading Ukraine. The aim of the illegal and unjustified Russian attack on Ukraine is to end Ukraine as an independent country, to make it politically, militarily, and economically unviable and marginalised, and to bring it back into Russia’s orbit of influence. For Russia, victory in Ukraine could take several forms. It does not have to result in a sustainable solution. It could involve the installation of an obedient government in Kiev. Alternatively, defeating the Ukrainian army and negotiating a Ukrainian surrender could effectively transform Ukraine into a failed state. Russia could also employ devastating cyberattacks and disinformation tools, backed by the threat of force, to paralyse the country and induce regime change. Whatever the form, Russia seeks to ensure Ukraine is effectively separated from the West. Russia’s other objective is to reconfigure the European security order, created after the end of the Cold War, at the expense of the United States and the Transatlantic Alliance.

    2. Despite their best efforts, Western diplomats were unsuccessful in deterring Russia’s invasion. What are the early lessons learned from this failure for the West?

    Aznar: The West’s credibility in its confrontation with Russia was reduced to conventional deterrence (deterrence by punishment), counter-deterrence, and “deterrence by disclosure”. The first was the claim that if Russia invades Ukraine, the West will respond with severe economic sanctions, “never seen before”. Also, some NATO member countries have sent tonnes of defensive weaponry to Ukraine. The counter-deterrence, which was one of the West’s biggest mistakes in this crisis, was the declaration that they will not engage Russia in an armed conflict to defend Ukraine. Ruling out the option of presenting Russia with an enemy that could defeat it (the USA), gave wings to the Kremlin’s plans. One of the novelties of this war and of the American strategy has been “deterrence by disclosure”. Since the beginning of the tensions on the Ukrainian border, the USA was releasing intelligence information almost daily. In all previous wars, intelligence services presented the American government with “elements of judgment”, in order to make an appropriate decision in a conflict. This new strategy has not deterred Russia, but it has demonstrated that the West lacks a conventional war strategy vis-à-vis Russia. It has also shown that responding to a revanchist Russia with sanctions and rhetorical proclamations of a rules-based international order is not enough.

    3. How should the EU respond to this aggression in your view?

    Aznar: The EU has responded with all the instruments at its disposal: it has condemned the Russian aggression, has partially expelled Russia from the SWIFT system, and frozen the foreign currency reserves of the Russian Central Bank abroad, in order to deprive it of the capacity to cushion the shock of Western sanctions. However, these measures do not affect the energy sector, given that 41% of the gas imported by the EU comes from Russia. The effects of economic and financial sanctions will be seen in the long term, and will undoubtedly damage Russia’s economy. This war has shown that European defence depends on NATO and the Transatlantic relationship, so EU countries must increase military spending and ensure their defence within NATO and in coordination with the United States.

    Mikuláš Dzurinda EU-Russia Foreign Policy Ukraine

    Vital Questions on the Ukraine Invasion Episode 2

    Other News - Ukraine

    01 Mar 2022

  • While Ukrainians fight for the defence of Kyiv, for the country and for their independence, it is clear that the year 2022 will define Europe’s history in a way comparable only to 1989. Europe’s history after the Second World War, the development of the European community and later the European Union was largely about rectifying the Second World War’s legacy, and culminated in the fall of communism in 1989 and hopes of a better future. Conversely, the war in Ukraine will permanently challenge the optimism of Europeans and change the way they view the future of the continent.

    Many hope that after the Ukraine war is resolved, Europe can return to normality, albeit with a new balance with Putin’s Russia. The initial rejection of excluding Russia from the international payment system SWIFT and targeted sanctions tacitly express a thinking among Western nations that the Ukraine war’s negative impact can be conventionally mitigated. But the Ukraine war has implications that go well beyond its national borders – and that includes the war’s costs.

    Europe has now entered into a conflict that will last as long as Putin is in power. He has now crossed several red lines that very few in Russia or in Ukraine thought he would. For him, there is no turning back.

    Putin’s rule has become progressively less dependent on legitimacy and authority; but now it is clear it is based on power and violence. His speeches in recent days clearly state that the war in Ukraine is not about Ukraine, but about him challenging the West, Europe’s post-war order, and the continent’s security architecture. Putin has made an indirect reference to the use of nuclear power and has repeated that should Finland and Sweden join NATO, there would be grave political and military consequences. The war in Ukraine has already expanded beyond the country’s borders.

    The full impact of the war on the EU’s internal dynamics remains to be seen. Central and Eastern Europe, the Baltics, and Northern Europe now have urgent security concerns. The way in which the rest of the EU can relate to this may become a uniting or a dividing factor within the EU. Dynamics between EU member states are changing, while the situation in Ukraine has shown that Germany’s leading position in the EU has substantially weakened since Angela Merkel is no longer Chancellor.

    The end-game of the war in Ukraine has wider implications, as US President Biden has stated. Pandora’s box has been opened, total war is no longer taboo and this will reduce the threshold for the use of military force. Depending on the West’s resolve, China will re-assess the potential Western reaction in case it attempts to seize Taiwan through military means. In Europe, Russia is involved in the Balkans and conflict-seeking actors may become emboldened. Shadowed by the Ukrainian situation, the much-neglected but very worrying domestic developments in Turkey have recently been paired with statements challenging Greek territorial sovereignty; these could take a sudden and ugly turn.

    Ukrainians today are examples of courage and commitment, an inspiration to the rest of Europe. President Zelensky is showing devotion and sacrifice all European leaders can admire. European citizens are spontaneously rising for Ukrainians; everyday Polish citizens at the Ukrainian border, for instance. But the war in Ukraine is far from over.

    In the streets of Ukraine, it is not just the future of Ukraine being fought over, but Europe’s as a whole. Europe is most likely in a conflict which will be long and costly. Putin has started a war against the  West and will not stop. Should he successfully take over Ukraine and manage to negotiate a new security arrangement, the West will be permanently weakened. Ukrainians need all the possible support. The EU has to isolate the Kremlin and Putin’s Russia, knowing that this effort will be long and costly. Europe’s history is being decided, and the Europe of the free needs to ensure that they are the makers of that history.

    Tomi Huhtanen Crisis EU-Russia Foreign Policy Ukraine

    Tomi Huhtanen

    The Fight for Europe’s Future is Being Fought in the Streets of Ukraine

    Blog - Ukraine

    27 Feb 2022

  • 1. What is Putin’s end-goal? His rhetoric hints at regime change, but he has stated he does not wish to occupy Ukraine. What to make of these mixed messages?

    John Bruton, former Prime Minister of Ireland: The Russian end goal is to force Ukraine into a Russian-dominated economic union that would be incompatible with a trade agreement with the EU. This would require a new government in Kyiv and a new Ukrainian constitution. The Ukrainian armed forces would be reduced, but border adjustments may not be crucial for Russia. This outcome would threaten the integrity and effective sovereignty of several EU and NATO states. It is hard to say what the next Russian goal will be and how firm NATO guarantees would be in practice, given the state of US public opinion and pacifism in some EU countries.

    Jan Krzysztof Bielecki, former Prime Minister of Poland: Putin’s end game was clear from day one. He cannot accept any liberal democratic transformation in the countries of the former Soviet Union. Particularly in Ukraine, the largest and strategically most important ex-Soviet state. Successful transformation in Ukraine means the end of Putin’s dictatorship. It would also be proof to Russians that such a transition is possible, and can brings liberties and improve standards of living for all citizens. Putin believes, like some far-right leaders in Europe do, that the West is immoral and in political decline. They think the future is in authoritarian regimes built on military power; and the Tsarist empire is back. What Gorbachev destroyed, Putin resurrects. He will establish a neo-East Germany in parts of conquered Ukraine, which will take place in the next few weeks, if not days.

    Ivan Mikloš, former Minister of Finance of Slovakia: Nobody knows what Putin’s end-goal is. Everything he’s done over the last few days was so irrational that it’s complicated to make any prognosis of the possible outcomes. Another factor is the unreliability of what Putin says. Last week, he promised not to invade to Ukraine, telling this to Macron, Scholz, and other Western leaders, and then did it anyways.

    2. Despite their best efforts, Western diplomats were unsuccessful in deterring Russia’s invasion. What are the early lessons learned from this failure for the West?

    Bruton: There has been a visible lack of coordination in the West. The idea of keeping Russia in the international payment system SWIFT, while excluding Iran, is incoherent. But to be fair, this is a shock, so some confusion is understandable, but it should end now.

    Bielecki: The West was deaf and blind to a long list of Russian so-called operations. Just remember Chechnya, Transnistria, Georgia, Syria, Ukraine. That includes Maidan and Donetsk, Crimea, the downing of flight MH17.  Operations in Londongrad are also important to mention, beginning with the financing of local politics (the British are starting to speak about it!). There were assassinations, the acquisition of thousands of properties, massive sales of resident visas for cash in the UK, Cyprus, Malta, Luxembourg, etc. Then, the separate case of Germany, with a long history of support for Russia and hostility towards Ukraine.

    Mikloš: The early lesson is that these kind of irresponsible dictators only understand and respect power and strength.

    3. How should the EU respond to this aggression in your view?

    Bruton: The EU should agree to exclude Russia from SWIFT. It makes no sense for individual heads of government to talk to Russia while others refuse to do so; there should be a single messenger and a single message.

    Bielecki: I wish to be crystal clear about this final question; I have signed many publications and appeals, including one from our GLOBSEC, so I will end with a basic question. With Putin openly speaking about Clausewitz’s famous dictum, how long can the West continue magical thinking? “Unless you are ultimately prepared to resort to force, dialogue or negotiations are only a postponement of the other side’s aggression.”

    Mikloš: By imposing the strongest possible sanctions, including excluding Russia from SWIFT, freezing the accounts and assets of Russian companies and citizens in NATO and EU member states, freezing the foreign currency reserves of the Russian Central Bank deposited in Western Central Banks and imposing personal sanctions against Putin personally.

    Mikuláš Dzurinda Defence EU-Russia Foreign Policy Ukraine

    Vital Questions on the Ukraine Invasion

    Other News - Ukraine

    25 Feb 2022

  • 1. The Russian violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty has been described as a turning point in European history; war has returned to our continent. How do you view the long-term implications of Russia’s aggression?

    Vladimir Milov, Russian Opposition Leader and Martens Centre Research Associate: Much depends on further developments of the situation – will Putin stop at the current line of conflict or further the military invasion of Ukraine, and how the West will react. However, one thing is clear and very concerning: Putin has developed an appetite for permanent destabilisation and the escalation of tensions – which is not only limited to Ukraine – and his regime, in its present shape, remains a fundamental threat to European and global security. Putin’s recent speeches and historic rants, and Monday’s broadcast of the meeting of Sovbez (the National Security Council, the highest authority which currently de facto rules Russia), demonstrate that the entire Russian leadership is not inclined to adhere to the international rules-based order, and is ready and willing to act in a disruptive manner, not just with regard to Ukraine. In order to contain Putin’s permanent destabilisation policy, a strong deterrence strategy is required.

    Michael Benhamou, Martens Centre Research Associate: Russian troops entering Eastern Ukraine marks the return of a high-intensity military scenario not witnessed since Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Sadly for us Europeans, there are two important differences: [1] the United States will not come to the rescue this time, with President Biden having confirmed the power shift to Asia launched by Presidents Obama and Trump.

    [2] European Armies cannot cope with such a conventional war scenario on their own continent (i.e. infantry vs infantry). This is firstly due to military budgets, especially in Central and Northern Europe, having decreased considerably over the past decades; secondly because post-9/11 wars have driven our soldiers towards urban combat and counter-terrorism – a long shot from classic warfare.

    To put it differently, polls show the citizens of Sweden and Germany to be most opposed to Russia’s behaviour (ECFR); but they also vote for politicians who, for the most part, disdain the purpose of the military. This contradiction is being exploited right now.

    2. As a follow-up, do you think this situation fundamentally imperils the liberal international order (also taking into the positions of countries such as China and Turkey)?

    Milov: Of course, Putin’s moves show deep disregard to the international rules-based order, and disrespect even to his own commitments – he recently praised the Minsk agreements as “the only possible solution” to the Donbas conflict, only to throw them into the dustbin just a few days later. Putin is a dangerous player with total disregard for international rules and Russia’s international commitments, as his record over the years and the very recent development prove.

    Benhamou: On that topic, the entourage of Vladimir Putin has indeed developed a sophisticated anti-liberal critique since the end of the 1990s. A few years ago, I remember reading about Putin’s top adviser Alexandre Dugin’s interpretation of German jurist Carl Schmitt for instance. Schmitt was a former Nazi party member who famously wrote in The Concept of the Political (1932) that “a nation who does have the force or the will to engage in wars does not mean the end of the political order; it simply means the end of a weak nation.”

    This Russian mindset is underpinned by the rise of conflict in Europe’s periphery and beyond. And yes it is opposed to the victorious post-World War II model – that of America’s open markets competition and of the sense that cooperation is more beneficial than systemic mistrust – with the European Union being the best example of this choice. Putin wants to take us back to inter-state zero-sum games that are easier to play (for them), unreasonably passionate, but also more unpredictable.

    To face this challenge, citizens of democracies need to get rid of their apathy. French philosopher Tocqueville wrote beautifully about the egoism of property-obsessed democrats in times of peace, followed by their awakening and cohesion when the threat approaches. Will his prediction prove to be right again?

    3. Putin’s televised address on Monday evening was a rambling attempt to negate Ukraine’s right to exist and justify Russian aggression. Has Putin recently become disconnected from certain geopolitical realities, or has this always been the case and is only now more apparent?

    Milov: Putin is not disconnected from reality, he deliberately tries to wittingly construct a parallel propaganda reality to justify his actions, and he doesn’t care about the truth and facts. I’m sure he’s aware that his interpretation of history has little basis in reality – for instance, he says that “Khrushchev had for some reasons taken Crimea from Russia and handed it to Ukraine”, but he must be fully aware that things have in a totally different manner and it was not Khrushchev, there are plenty of official Soviet documents actually explaining the long discussion about the need to transfer Crimea to the Ukrainian SSR for objective reasons. Putin cannot not know that – but he’s obviously lying to the public, consciously and deliberately, following the Goebbels playbook step-by-step.

    Benhamou: Yes, as February 2022 ends, there seems to be a lack of logic in Russia’s short-term goals: annexing Ukrainian provinces that it already de facto controls – provinces with limited strategic value – and all these theatrics at the cost of renewed sanctions, economic difficulties, increased support for NATO amongst Ukrainians…

    But we don’t have the whole game plan. And Moscow has some serious cards in their hands too: time, geography, overwhelming force, gas, increased wheat production enabled by climate change. Yet all these cards would be pointless if China ends up swallowing the whole. In business terms, we’d say that Russia’s alliance with Europe would bear more “complementary advantages” than going East – with each side possessing skills the other does not.

    4. Western sanctions are on the way, Germany has just announced the cancellation of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, and Russian stocks and the ruble have already crumbled. Will economic pressure be the undoing of Russia’s military endeavour?

    Milov: Yes, the Russian economy will suffer greatly from another round of Putin’s aggressive foreign policies. Russia is still heavily dependent on consumer imports, and the depreciation of the ruble further hits the consumer purchasing power of ordinary Russians (which had reduced by about 10-15% since the beginning of the aggression against Ukraine in 2014). Even the import substitution efforts backfire, as they only lead to the monopolisation of industries and price growth, further reducing Russians’ real incomes, as proved by the experience of import substitution in food and agricultural sectors since 2014. Russia’s large corporations and its banks, the lifeblood of Putin’s economic system, will be further disconnected from the global markets and the financial system, pushing Russia from a globally-oriented player towards an Iranian-style semi-autarky. Public opinion polling for Putin is already not so bright, because Russians are tired of economic woes caused by his geopolitical adventures, and of living in a ‘besieged fortress’ mode. New economic sanctions caused by the occupation of Donbas mean serious costs for Putin – in case Western sanctions will be serious enough to meet expectations.

    Benhamou: I am not a Russia expert, and I have never been to Russia myself. But the resilience of Russia’s population is multi-secular, as is their acceptance of authority. As for Nord Stream 2, it is not a cancellation but a suspension as far as I understand. The infrastructure in the Baltics will not be destroyed and can be reactivated at any time!

    Political winds only need to blow a little for that to happen – just look at rising oil prices, rising electricity prices impacting all families, America’s rapid exit, potential wars in the Middle East that Europeans will not be able to handle on their own… “Patience”, Putin will tell his audience. Patience.

    We owe it to the Ukrainians to tell them the truth: they are alone right now. No Europeans will die for them. And we need to rethink the balance between our liberal values and the return of violence in order to be ready for that next time.

    Vladimir Milov Michael Benhamou Defence EU-Russia Foreign Policy Ukraine

    Vital Questions on the Ukraine Crisis

    Other News - Ukraine

    23 Feb 2022

  • The United States and Russia initiated a discussion on 10 January on European security and the Ukraine conflict, after Moscow demanded NATO commit to halting its expansion. Putin has already achieved an important goal: Russia has a principal seat at the negotiating table as Europe’s security architecture is being negotiated, without any other Europeans.

    For the average Ukrainian, the most concerning question nevertheless remains possible Russian aggression in the coming weeks. Despite the fact that after years of speculation and concern, Ukrainians have become somewhat numb to the daily speculations of war, the current situation is very worrying. Member states on the Eastern flank of the EU are following the situation with grave concern, especially those countries bordering Russia.

    In an interview with the Martens Centre, Russian opposition politician and former Deputy Minister of Energy and Martens Centre Research Associate Vladimir Milov gave an in-depth analysis on Russia’s intentions concerning Ukraine. In his view, Putin’s main goal is to ensure he plays a role in international fora when it comes to geopolitics, rather than truly search for conflict.

    According to Milov, the idea of a major war is hugely unpopular and would have a significant impact on Putin’s approval ratings, which Putin knows all too well. One recent poll shows that two thirds of Russians prioritise personal economic well-being and higher living standards over geopolitical greatness – among Russians aged 40 or below, this figure jumps to 70%. 

    Importantly, the Russian people do not really expect a war with Ukraine – the majority says it is unlikely. Thus, should there be a full-scale military confrontation between Ukraine and Russia, the war would come as a surprise and contradict Russian popular aspirations.

    A rapidly-rising concern is the increasing concentration of Russian troops in Ukraine’s neighbourhood.  However, these  ‘troops near the Ukraine border’, which we have heard so much about are not stationed in the field – they are amassed at permanent stationery bases like Pogonovo near Voronezh, which is geographically near the Ukrainian border, but in reality, is just a large stationery military base in Central Russia.

    As Milov points out, it is a relatively easy exercise for Putin to bring even a hundred thousand troops to military bases of that scale, because he can keep them there for an indefinite period without incurring major costs, playing with the West’s nerves and raising fears of an invasion, as a near no-cost exercise.

    The West should remain vigilant nevertheless. Russia is accumulating its combat-ready forces, and is conducting military drills with these units, which are effectively rehearsals of a hypothetical invasion. In such an environment, there are real risks of dangerous, war-triggering incidents, such as warplanes violating Ukrainian airspace during military exercises and Ukraine reacting to it. Should there be any mistake or sign of weakness from the West, Putin will use it.

    Italy’s President Mario Draghi was stating the obvious in December 2021. When it comes to resisting Russia in its pressure campaign on Ukraine, Europe has little leverage.

    However, the fundamental European problem is not the lack of common security structures with EU member states, there are plenty of those. The core challenge is not institutional but political. European countries do not have the political will nor culture to even think of engaging militarily outside their own borders, let alone in some cases taking full responsibility of their own security, even within the NATO structure.

    Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö, in his widely quoted New Year’s speech, referred to Henry Kissinger’s wisdom; Kissinger pointed out that whenever avoidance of war has been the primary objective of a group of powers, the international system has been at the mercy of its most ruthless member.

    Motivated by Putin’s latest actions, European leaders and the public need to ask if their strategy of complacency has come to an end and if their avoidance of war, well-meaning as it may be, might be detrimental to the peaceful European continent.

    Tomi Huhtanen EU-Russia Foreign Policy NATO Ukraine

    Tomi Huhtanen

    Putin is Unlikely to Attack Ukraine – but Europe’s Complacency Would be Detrimental

    Blog - Ukraine

    10 Jan 2022

  • Greek-French relations have deep roots. They were not always smooth and easy. However, the ties between both countries are based on a mutual cultural and historical appreciation. In modern times, this appreciation was shown on the tumultuous night of 24 July 1974, following the fall of the military junta, when the iconic Greek statesman, Konstantinos Karamanlis, landed at Athens Airport to restore democracy. The plane that carried Karamanlis from Paris was provided by the then-President of the French Republic, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. Since then, the slogan “Grèce-France-Alliance” depicts the close historical, cultural, and diplomatic relations between the two countries and peoples.

    On 28 September 2021, almost half a century later, a landmark defence deal signed by the two countries at the Élysée Palace reaffirming that the Greco-French alliance is stronger than ever. According to Emmanuel Macron, it “strengthens cooperation in the area of security and safeguards the sovereignty and territorial integrity of both countries”. This strategic partnership, besides the Greek purchase of 3+1 French frigates (costing 3bn Euros), includes a mutual defence assistance clause in case of attack against the signatories. 

    It is worth mentioning that this is the first time in history that Greece signs a bilateral agreement with a clause of mutual military assistance with one of the great powers. This shows not only the very good relations between the two countries, but also their shared views on a series of political and military issues.

    Of course, one should not ignore the diplomatic and geopolitical realities behind this agreement. The discussions lasted for more than 18 months. On one hand, after a decade of military stagnation due to economic crisis, and under the pressure of Turkey’s aggression on land, air, and sea from Evros to the East Mediterranean, Greece felt the pressing need to modernise its military forces.

    On the other hand, the launch of AUKUS exasperated France and led President Macron to seek a solution that would soothe impressions and allow the French military industry to recover some of the 34 billion euros lost after the cancellation of the submarines deal with Australia.

    The Franco-Greek strategic partnership has dual importance. It touches upon national and wider European interests.

    The weaponising of immigrants and refugees at Evros’ borders by Turkey in March 2021, the military standoff of the previous summer, and the violation of the UN Resolutions in Cyprus pushed the Greek government to announce an ambitious armaments programme. This includes, among others, the purchase of 24 French Rafale jets, the current deal for 3+1 Belharra (FDI) frigates, and the possibility of 3+1 Gowind corvettes for the Greek Navy, with a delivery date before 2027. As PM Mitsotakis mentioned, the Paris agreement is not antagonising Greek-American relations. It rather works complementary to the update of the MDCA (Mutual Defence Cooperation Agreement), expected to be signed with a five-year duration in mid-October.

    The target for the Greeks is clear. The economic crisis and the rapid development of the Turkish military industry changed the balance of power between the two shores of the Aegean in favour of Ankara. The gradual strengthening of the Greek armed forces, accompanied with the French military shield, increases the prospects of deterrence and security in the Southeast borders of the European Union. Furthermore, it satisfies a basic tenet of international relations: si vis pacem, para bellum. If you want peace, prepare for war.

    The European Union, according to President Macron, should stop being naïve and be ready to defend itself when other powers harden their stance. The Franco-Greek agreement marks one of the first tangible step of the highly-touted EU Strategic Autonomy, and as such, it should be welcomed. On the eve of the French Presidency of the EU, two of the concept’s strongest supporters join forces in an unprecedented act that expands their military and diplomatic links in the wider Mediterranean region and the Sahel; areas in which the US seems to have left space for other powers to grow and feel the gap of its absence. The EU may not be ready to act as one when it comes to confronting its rivals; but having two of its nations lead the way by strengthening cross-continental military cooperation is a clear positive, not a drawback. Additionally, this move does not hinder the capacity of EU nations, or indeed the EEAS, to conduct traditional diplomacy. In other words, the EU has a unique opportunity to surf the wave of American scale-back in the region and increase its imprint as a promising hard-power world actor. This opportunity should be seized without delay.

    In a continuously changing global environment, gravitating towards a new international order characterised by revisionist powers and unusual diplomatic and political alliances, Europe should not continue playing a mediating role, promoting only its soft-power. Autocratic regimes and rogue states disregard traditional diplomatic channels and pursue projecting their own power. Eventually, the EU must develop its own, autonomous military capacities and begin speaking with one voice in foreign matters. It is no longer sufficient to be an economic giant, we should be able to protect our sovereignty, defend our interests, and secure our future through reliable, deployable, and effective EU armed forces.  

    Panos Tasiopoulos Eleftheria Katsi Theo Larue Defence EU Member States Foreign Policy

    Panos Tasiopoulos

    Eleftheria Katsi

    Theo Larue

    Sous le Ciel de Paris – A Promising Agreement is Born


    01 Oct 2021

  • Common festivities cancelled, French ambassadors recalled from Washington and Canberra, and an EU-Australia trade deal on ice: France’s righteous wrath is understandable, but only partly justified. Moreover, coming on the heels of the Transatlantic spat over the Afghanistan withdrawal, this latest crisis among allies not only reconfirms the urgent question many Europeans asked themselves after the last US election: What if the Republicans return to power in 2024? It actually produces an even more urgent question: How Trumpist is Joe Biden? And is this the final wake-up call for the EU’s strategic autonomy?

    The art of (cancelling) the deal

    The submarine deal was fraught with problems from its beginning in 2016. That refers not only to the predictable delays and cost blowouts on the side of the French contractor, Naval Group, but also to changing strategic requirements in the Indo-Pacific, and above all, the French inability to come to grips with the propulsion system – on top of data hacks on their side. The problem (and the ineptitude in Washington) was that the announcement of the cancellation came together with the formation of AUKUS, the Australia-UK-US cooperation agreement on sharing state-of-the-art military technology (including on submarines, replacing the French contract) and strategic cooperation in the Indo-Pacific – vis-à-vis an increasingly aggressive China, of course. (By the way, to call this a military alliance is a bit of an exaggeration. NATO is an alliance; this here is a cooperation agreement with geopolitical implications). The fact that France, like other European allies of the US, had not known about this agreement in the making in past months, was the real ‘stab in the back’, to use French Foreign Minister Le Drian’s words. To unnecessarily alienate an ally with ambitions and presence in the Indo-Pacific is indeed counterproductive, especially if the priority of priorities for the US, and one of the last remaining bipartisan points of consensus along the Potomac, is countering the rising Chinese influence.  

    When US strategic disinterest meets with European strategic ineptitude

    The picture would, however, be incomplete without the Biden administration’s frustration, actually a bipartisan exasperation, with European allies who keep postulating their ‘strategic autonomy’ from the US while still bringing very little to the table in terms of real military capabilities. A strategic autonomy that so far mainly manifests itself in pushing projects such as Nord Stream 2 and telling the world that Europe refuses to ‘take sides’ in the ‘Cold War 2.0’ between the US and China. And to underscore this, the EU concluded an investment deal with China without even consulting with the US, despite Washington’s very kind request to do so before signing. This is happening in a situation in which the Biden administration clearly and repeatedly said that the overriding conflict of the future is the one between liberal democracy and a new authoritarianism, whose cheerleader is now the Chinese Communist Party. American strategic disinterest in Europe meets with European strategic impotence and irresponsibility: Two mutually reinforcing trends. And a toxic combination for the West, and for democrats worldwide.

    Breaking the vicious circle

    Ending the Transatlantic vicious circle begins with European strategic responsibility, not autonomy. The latter is not on the cards, full stop. To spell it out: Even if we had an ‘entry force’ and several battlegroups combat-ready for interventions in emergencies like the one in Kabul, or contingencies in the neighbourhood (which is a worthy goal), there is no way such a Europe without the US could defend itself, or deter an aggressive authoritarian power such as Russia on all levels, from hybrid to conventional, to tactical nuclear and strategic nuclear. Rather than strategic autonomy, which is anathema to Eastern flank countries in EU and NATO, strategic responsibility should be our ambition. And that means spending more on defence, developing intervention capacities in the EU’s neighbourhood, strengthening the European pillar in NATO, and ceasing to ostentatiously sit on the fence between China and the US. Instead, while recognising that EU and US approaches to China will never be identical, we need to seek common ground and identify areas of strategic consensus, for example on supply chains, export of key technologies, a common pushback against Beijing’s abuse of our open markets, its political blackmail and human rights violations, as well as a concerted effort to support democratic governments and movements across the world. Some willingness to compromise with the US on trade and technology would also help.

    If the EU is to demonstrate real added value to the US as allies, two nations in particular have to grow up on this side of the Pond: France needs to let go of delusions of grandeur, and Germany needs to get real about contributing to Europe’s security with more hard power – which is always necessary for soft power to work.

    Roland Freudenstein China Defence EU-US Foreign Policy

    Roland Freudenstein

    Donald J. Biden? How Europe’s Indignation Reveals as Much About Us as About America


    21 Sep 2021

  • The day before Ukraine’s 30th independence anniversary, over 40 international delegations gathered in Kyiv to officially kick off the Crimea Platform, an initiative by President Zelensky to bring Crimea back under Ukrainian sovereignty. The Crimea Platform is a consultative format aimed at stepping up the international response to the occupation of the peninsula, with de-occupation as the final goal. The Platform will operate on three major levels – intergovernmental, parliamentary, and expert, all of which have unanimously condemned Russia’s ongoing actions, which are an open assault against the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, and undermine its independence.

    However, in order to succeed, the Crimea Platform’s strategy and its outcomes have to be better and aim higher than those of the Minsk II Agreements. Is that realistic? First, let’s analyse the major differences between the occupied territories of Eastern Ukraine and Crimea. Even with the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, Donbas has not been annexed by Putin, who instead created a regional conflict by supporting the separatists, claiming to be an external party to the war.

    Crimea, on the other hand, has been invaded and illegally proclaimed Russian under the pretence of a referendum after which the Crimean parliament voted to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. The international community was quick to condemn the Kremlin’s move and not recognise the annexation, but besides calling for a return of Crimea to Ukraine, not much else has been done. Donbas, however, has remained a focus of attention, with multiple steps taken in the direction of conflict resolution. But even in this case, neither the meetings of France, Germany, Ukraine, and Russia under the Normandy Format, nor the Minsk II agreements, yielded any concrete results.

    With the war in the Eastern part of the country continuing, and a deadlock on his hands with regards to the implementation of the Minsk II 13 points, President Zelensky decided it was time to talk about Crimea. Under the slogan “Crimea is Ukraine – Stronger Together”, Zelensky aims to put Crimea back on the map, as until now, the topic has only been discussed in the UN General Assembly and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

    The presence of more than 40 delegations at the summit of the Crimea Platform showed a clear support and commitment to Ukraine. However, there may be an uphill path to more concrete actions than just reinforcing the non-recognition policy on Crimea. Out of the five key priorities on which the initiative is based, only the first two seem easily achievable. The first priority – consolidating the non-recognition policy on the illegal annexation – can be considered successfully achieved. In fact, only a handful of countries recognise the validity of the referendum held in the peninsula. The second priority – strengthening sanctions against Russia – seems to be an easy win with the big players. The representatives of the US and the EU, along with Germany and France in particular, are all committed to keeping sanctions in place and supporting Ukraine in the restoration of its territorial integrity.

    The other three priorities will definitely be harder to pursue: the protection of human rights and international humanitarian law; ensuring security in the Azov-Black Sea region; and overcoming environmental and economic consequences of the occupation. The reason for that is seven years of continuous colonisation of Crimea by the Russian Federation.

    Repression against Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians requires immediate action. There are over 100 individuals being politically persecuted in the peninsula, the majority of whom are Tatars, labelled as extremist groups by the Kremlin. In addition, the territory has undergone a process of russification. Russia has been changing the demographics and the ethnic composition of the Crimean population since the very beginning of its occupation, and now, according to expert calculations, every third inhabitant of Crimea had arrived in the region from Russia. Additionally, on 20 March 2021, decree number 201 of the President of the Russian Federation came into force. According to this decree, the majority of the Crimean Peninsula is gaining the status of a border territory of the Russian Federation. Moreover, Crimean residents have been issued Russian passports, and the Kremlin spent some €2.6 billion to construct a bridge over the Kerch Strait connecting Crimea to the Russian mainland. 

    The militarisation of the peninsula adds to concerns for the security and fears of destabilisation of the region, not only for Ukraine, but for Europe as a whole. Of course, the international sanctions and the lack of water supply from the Dnipro river have an impact on the economy of Crimea, but do not seem to deter Putin from his plans.

    The truth is, the de-occupation and re-integration of Crimea will be a long and difficult process. But the bottom line is: Crimea is Ukraine, and Ukraine cannot do it alone. As important as the declaration of the Crimea Platform is, international partners must follow up with concrete action and hold Russia accountable for its violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Political and diplomatic efforts should continuously follow in order to increase pressure on the Kremlin and restore Ukrainian sovereignty. Russia will never willingly cede the peninsula back to Ukraine, even with a top-level change, so international partnerships and the common effort of Ukrainian allies is vital in ensuring a successful outcome of the objectives of Crimea Platform; but be prepared to wait.  

    Anna Nalyvayko Eastern Europe EU-Russia Foreign Policy Ukraine

    Anna Nalyvayko

    The Crimea Platform and its Chances of Success

    Blog - Ukraine

    01 Sep 2021

  • Don’t miss Florian Hartleb answer Roland Freudenstein’s questions on topics such as the CDU’s success in the recent regional elections in Saxony-Anhalt, the party’s upcoming federal election campaign, the Greens, foreign policy, the future of the European centre-right & even music!

    Roland Freudenstein European People’s Party Foreign Policy Germany

    The Week in 7 Questions with Florian Hartleb

    Multimedia - Other videos

    11 Jun 2021

  • The EU needs to rethink its Russia policy. Instead of chasing after Vladimir Putin’s confrontational regime, European leaders, who are meeting on 25 March, should throw their support behind those who work for social change and promote democracy in Russia.    

    Europeans must rid themselves of any expectations or hope for constructive engagement with Putin. The Russian leader’s famous social contract—co-opting citizens into accepting authoritarian rule in exchange for economic security, social stability, and Crimea —is bankrupt.  

    After unprecedented state violence against nationwide protests in January, the regime has embarked on what activists call a “new era of repression.” The picture of a masked riot police officer sitting under a portrait of Vladimir Putin has become a symbol of the confrontation between the state and the people. Russian philosopher Oksana Timofeeva speaks of a “declaration of terror” against society. 

    But Putin does not represent Russia as a whole. Young, energetic Russians have emerged, working towards a freer, more open society. Local protests have been flaring up all over the country, with citizens rallying against unpaid wages, toxic industrial plants, unwanted landfills, and corrupt officials. Well-documented protests in support of jailed opposition leader Alexey Navalny are the first to show that support can be mobilised on a nationwide scale. 

    And it’s not only protests. Russian civil society is more active, resilient, and dynamic than EU policymakers recognise. After ten years of repression, it is more creative and diverse than ever. Many groups reach larger audiences, fundraise successfully, and experiment with new business models. Independent online media have joined civic activism, uncovering corruption, reporting on abuses and informing citizens on their rights. Professional groups (journalists, doctors, and scientists) are coming out in solidarity with repressed colleagues. Volunteerism and philanthropy are on the rise.

    For the Putin regime, this active civil society is an enemy. In addition to authorising police violence, the regime has pushed some 100 new laws through the Duma since December that attempt to strangle NGOs, civil rights, protests, education, media, and the Internet. Civic experts speak of the beginning of “quasi-totalitarian control of all citizens and international contacts.”  

    The 2012 “foreign agent” law, which affected only registered NGOs, has been expanded to target individual citizens or unregistered initiatives receiving international funds. It imposes penalties of up to five years in prison for those who fail to register and report on activities. Pressure is rising on the media, who have their own “foreign agent media” register, while new criminal defamation laws make it an offence to criticise groups like the police or security forces. Despite protests from scientists and academics, new laws aim at cutting the educational sector from international cooperation.

    At their March summit, European leaders must confront this repressive Russia. “It’s a tsunami,” a veteran Russian civil society representative said recently, calling for more attention and support from Western policymakers.  

    Beyond imposing further sanctions against Russian officials, it’s time for Europe to actively engage with the “other Russia”. Individuals and groups working for social change and development in Russia are Europe’s best partners. Many of them support Western values and are keen to cooperate with EU partners, share know-how, and connect to cross-border networks, despite laws aimed at stopping them. 

    Instead of illusions of partnership with Putin and his officials, European policymakers should side with Russians who want their country “to be democratic, modern, dynamically developing, and free from a personalist Putin regime”, a petition signed by Russian supporters abroad states.

    EU leaders must finally develop an attractive agenda for its ‘fifth principle’ guiding relations with Russia. This action plan must go far beyond aiding registered NGOs, to address the broad eco-system of activists engaged on the problems Russia’s regime has failed to address: ecology, corruption, domestic violence, torture, HIV/AIDS, election monitoring, migration, and prison reform.

    The annual 11 million euros earmarked by the EU for Russian civil society support need to be increased, given the country’s size and its 145 million citizens.  To reach new, informal groups, active in remote regions of Russia, the EU needs to develop smaller, more flexible funding instruments. Activists, students, scientists, and artists should be put at the head of the EU visa queue. An EU coordinator for civil society relations with Russia needs to be appointed.

    For the Putin regime, the EU is an adversary. Europe’s best chance to support a better future for Russia is to connect to the country’s civic activists and wider Russian society.

    Barbara von Ow-Freytag Democracy EU-Russia Foreign Policy Leadership

    Barbara von Ow-Freytag

    The Other Russia – Europe’s Best Bet


    22 Mar 2021

  • “The day we stop believing democracy can work is the day we lose it” said Queen Jamilia as the Galactic Republic faced enemies both internal and external during the Clone Wars. Today, democracies face populist and authoritarian challenges both domestically and globally. Among the latter, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is increasingly positioning itself as the leading revisionist force, seeking to change international norms and values and the current world order to become a global hegemon. It is promoting an alternative autocratic model to Western democracies and views them as adversaries and existential threats. Benefitting from economic difficulties and Western disunity, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, China under the CCP has seized the opportunity to challenge Western powers, amongst them the European Union (EU), in a power competition in which values are at the heart of the conflict.

    This competition is taking place in the economic, information, technological, political and diplomatic arenas. The Chinese government is leading disinformation campaigns and does not hesitate to bully countries into submission. This political interference is combined with intensive cyber-attacks and large-scale technological espionage, restricted market access, and aggressive investments in national industries, infrastructures, and resources. As a result of its economic and political interests, the CCP is challenging international rules, institutions, and political norms, including human rights – all of which it has committed to in international agreements. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased awareness of the threat the Chinese government poses and of the EU’s dependency on China, both as a provider of goods but also as a market. This has been reflected in public opinion polls that show largely negative views of China in EU countries, especially in Western and Northern European states.

    With this growing awareness, the 2019 Joint Communication of the European Commission and the High Representative highlighted the mounting tensions and competition between the EU and China. It offered a compartmentalised model of the EU-China relationship in different policy areas, from “cooperation partner” and “negotiation partner” in domains where interests can be aligned or balanced, to “economic competitor” and “systemic rival promoting alternative models of governance”.  

    The differentiated approach adopted by the EU might maintain economically fruitful relations on both sides but is unlikely to incite China to end its political, economic, informational, and technological attacks, affecting the national security of EU member states.

    Subsequently, in December 2020, China and the EU agreed in principle on a Comprehensive Agreement on Investment. China committed to ensure a “greater level of market access for the EU”, “fair treatment for EU companies”, and “ambitious provisions on sustainable development, including commitments on forced labour and the ratification of the relevant ILO fundamental Conventions”. This agreement would be an important step in obtaining equitable treatment and access for EU companies and businesses; however, it solely focuses on market access, leaving a number of other issues such as human rights abuses and investment protection to negotiate at a later stage. In addition, this agreement will still not open the Chinese market on a reciprocal level. Finally, the EU side-tracked the United States on this negotiation despite an open call from the then incoming Biden administration to consult and cooperate on this “common concern”. This plays directly into the hands of the CCP and its divide and rule strategy, and is a missed opportunity for the EU to have a reinforced bargaining position with a like-minded power (the US) to obtain stronger commitments.

    Furthermore, the CCP has demonstrated a lack of respect for rules, and employs tools and strategies to increase its dominance, leading to political instability and risks for EU countries. This calls for stronger engagement against the CCP’s disrupting behaviour on all fronts, in order to protect European interests, values, and political independence. As China’s second largest trading partner, the EU has leverage to negotiate stronger commitments and concessions. The differentiated approach adopted by the EU might maintain economically fruitful relations on both sides but is unlikely to incite China to end its political, economic, informational, and technological attacks, affecting the national security of EU member states.

    In addition, the Union should develop stronger ties with countries who view China under the CCP as a mounting threat in the Asia region, such as Australia and Japan, and especially the United States. The Biden administration intends to maintain the  country’s hard stance on China; however, it aims to do so in close cooperation with its allies and partners. Despite a decrease of Europe’s trust in the United States this past decade as the relationship became more competitive, critical, and less reliable, they closely share essential values as well as political and economic interests. This is a unique opportunity for the EU to have a stronger bargaining position in negotiations with China. It must seize it and identify how the transatlantic partners can cooperate on China.

    All this does not mean Europe should decouple from China, or that there are no remaining paths for cooperation. But the old juxtaposition of nouns – partner, competitor, rival – should be replaced by a hierarchy of a noun and verbs: China is a systemic rival with whom we should compete and cooperate with a balanced inclusive approach incorporating relevant fields, depending on the respective behaviour of the CCP. This difference in syntax precisely indicates that the systemic rivalry is the framework, and competition and cooperation are the variables within it.

    The defence of liberal values and democratic principles is essential to the health of our democracies. To protect them from the influence of authoritarianism, the EU has to ensure its actions meet all the challenges ahead, because believing democracy can work is the first step to defending it. The European Union has to be more proactive, resolute, and bold in its relationship with China. We need to become a blue dragon.

    Marie-Anne Brouillon Roland Freudenstein China Foreign Policy Values

    Marie-Anne Brouillon

    Roland Freudenstein

    The Case for a Blue Dragon: Facing China as a Confident Democracy


    17 Mar 2021

  • The EU is right to boost its relationship with India, who might be the world’s strongest economic power by the end of the century. However, many hurdles remain for India to take on a leading global role.

    With the Western world struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic and China strengthening its position, bolstered by a good management of the epidemic, there is a temptation to view the world’s geopolitical future as a game of three players: the United States, China, and the European Union. However, it is clear that in future decades, other continents and countries will increase their role. India especially has the potential to change the global balance in the coming decades.

    The ongoing Portuguese EU Council Presidency has set out a priority to enhance EU-India relations, and for good reasons. While India remains in many respects a developing country, it has great potential. Importantly, a strong India can have a stabilising impact in Asia, especially vis-à-vis China. For the West, India’s main attraction comes from its potential future role in the global economy.

    For the EU, India can offer great economic opportunities. India has an increasing interest in finding global allies, not least because of China.

    While India is fully conscious that China has, for decades, overtaken India in economic and technological development, India has done very well from a global perspective. Though China’s advantage over India is still increasing in many fields, there are factors that strongly play in India’s favour.

    India’s advantages over China

    Firstly, contrarily to China, India has demographic development on its side. China will peak just below 1.5 billion people in the next decade, before decreasing to 1.3 billion people by 2050. As a result of this development, China’s dependency ratio will challenge the country’s development, similarly to what we’ve seen in Europe and the West more generally. In opposition to this, by 2050, India will be home to an estimated 1.7 billion people, and its dependency ratio is actually declining. While India will remain young, China will become old. Secondly, while India’s infrastructure is much weaker, its potential for growth is greater as a result. Thirdly, despite its political problems, India is a democratic nation, and fostering relationships with the US and Europe will be much easier.

    India, however, must deal with several hurdles before truly becoming a global player. India’s domestic political developments are worrying.  India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi overwhelmingly won the May 2019 elections, ensuring control over the country’s future. Modi has been accused of boosting his popularity by implementing Hindu nationalist policies in a multireligious and multicultural country, which already has a history of ethnic conflicts. Moreover, his illiberal inclinations are concerning. Political instability in spite of Modi’s rule is a factor of Indian politics, directing the policy focus inwards.

    At the same time, his nationalistic attitude is reflected in India’s approach to foreign relations, and in global governance and the development of global trade. India has high tariffs and a strongly nationalistic industrialisation strategy, and trade negotiations between the EU and India have been delayed several times.

    India’s foreign policy has a strong focus on neighbouring countries, especially on China’s rise. Furthermore, India is in many ways still a developing country, with undeniable potential, but far behind China. The demographic advantage India will hold in the future will also serve as a challenge with the increasing environmental problems and pressure on basic infrastructure and agriculture. China’s influence concerns India, limits its agenda, and has a strong impact on India’s self-confidence as a global player.

    For the EU, India can offer great economic opportunities. India has an increasing interest in finding global allies, not least because of China. The EU and India have already set a pragmatic agenda to boost EU-India relations in their roadmap to 2025. While India’s future global role is unclear, both the EU and its individual member states have a lot to gain in enhancing cooperation with India and moving Indian relations higher in their political agenda. India might be, in future decades, the “next big thing” after China. Europeans should be ready for it.

    Tomi Huhtanen China Foreign Policy India Leadership

    Tomi Huhtanen

    While the EU searches for a stronger partnership, India’s future global role remains unclear


    27 Jan 2021

  • On 25 November 2020, a majority of the European Parliament approved my report on improving the efficiency of development aid. The report puts efficiency and effectiveness back at the centre of development cooperation. It also establishes conditionality for third country recipients of development aid to promote joint priorities as well as EU policy objectives on, inter alia, migration management.

    According to the UNHCR, almost 80 million people are currently displaced from their homes. While the COVID-19 pandemic has substantially reduced the number of irregular migrants reaching the Union’s shores, the numbers are still higher than those prior to 2015. In addition, EU agencies project that an increase of migrants will occur once the pandemic is under control. Economic migration is likely to continue to dominate irregular arrivals to the European Union for the foreseeable future.

    Migration is, however, not limited to EU borders. As highlighted by the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, it is an issue we need to address globally and in cooperation with countries of origin and transit. As the world’s largest donor of development aid, the EU has an important part to play on the global arena.

    Provisions I put forward in the report provide the European Union with guidance to improve migration management, including safe and orderly return, with due respect to fundamental human rights. It is the duty of a nation to accept the return of its citizens. As such, cooperation on returns belongs to the notion of good governance.

    In addition, conditionality may also be applied to achieve the common objectives of eradicating poverty, reducing vulnerability to climate and environmental changes, and developing economic and trade policies. Such sustainable development in third countries may, in the long term, reduce the root causes of migration. Reducing the number of displaced people will be the most efficient way to secure safe, orderly, and manageable migration.

    Conditionality provides the Union with an option to respond when a third country acts in a way that is harmful to European objectives.

    Conditionality also serves a greater principle. As a member of the European Parliament and chair of the development committee, it is my firm belief that every euro spent must provide the highest level of efficiency. On this merit, EU institutions have agreed to include rule of law conditionality in the next long-term budget, with regard to cohesion funds spent within the EU. This central principle is now also enshrined in the development aid policy.

    Let me stress that I would prefer conditionality not to be applied, but rather for our third country partners to promote joint objectives based on the spirit of cooperation. However, conditionality provides the Union with an option to respond when a third country acts in a way that is harmful to European objectives.

    I am convinced that the Parliament resolution in question will be an important tool for the EU as a geopolitical actor, with regard to both effective development aid and migration policies.

    Tomas Tobé Development Foreign Policy Migration

    Tomas Tobé

    Making Development Aid Dependent on Cooperation on Migration


    26 Jan 2021

  • Famagusta was one of the most beautiful resorts in the Mediterranean Sea, attracting tourists from all over the world to its sun-kissed golden sand beaches. On the morning of 20 July 1974, this all changed. 40,000 heavily armed Turkish troops illegally landed at Kerynia and invaded northern Cyprus. On 14 August, Turkey launched its second offensive, under the code name “Attila II”, occupying Morphou, Famagusta, and Karpasia. Thousands of Greek Cypriots lost their lives, hundreds went missing, and 200,000 people were forced to abandon their homes. Since then, Famagusta, “the pearl of the East Mediterranean”, has become a ghost city.

    Famagusta was much more than just a touristic resort. It was considered the cultural centre of Cyprus, while its Port attracted the largest business volume in the country, functioning as an important commercial hub until 1974.

    Famagusta has a long and continuous history of 36 centuries, predominantly shaped by its Greek and Christian past. A large number of Christian refugees, fleeing the downfall of Acre (1291) in Palestine, transformed it from a tiny village into one of the richest cities in Christendom. In 1489, the Venetians made Famagusta the capital of Cyprus. The old walled and bastioned town contains some of the finest examples of medieval military architecture in existence. Famagusta fell to the Ottomans after a bitter and prolonged siege in 1570–71, followed by the British who ruled the island from 1878 to 1960, when Cyprus became independent. Under the British administration, a modern suburb called Varosha bloomed south of Famagusta, as a commercial centre and tourist resort.

    During the Turkish invasion in 1974, the Turkish Air Force began bombing Famagusta and its troops approached Varosha. The inhabitants of the city were forced to flee their homes, with the hope that they would return when the situation became safer. However, the Turkish army violently seized control of the resort and illegally fenced off the area. Entry has since been forbidden, other than for Turkish military and United Nations personnel. Since then, it has been used by Ankara as a bargaining chip in talks to resolve the Cyprus issue. A UN resolution from 1984 called for the return of Varosha to UN control, and prohibits any attempt to resettle it by anyone other than those who were forced out, its legal inhabitants.

    The United Nations has, in fact, set a very specific framework for the return of Varosha to its lawful inhabitants as early as 1979, through the High-Level Agreement between the then leaders of the two communities (Greek and Turkish). The resettlement of Varosha by its lawful inhabitants, under UN auspices, was set as a priority and “without awaiting the outcome of the discussion on other aspects of the Cyprus problem”.

    On 8 October 2020, following the announcement made two days prior, Turkey illegally and in violation of the relevant UNSC Resolutions, extended the license for entry to the coastal front of Varosha. This is a provocative action against not only the Republic of Cyprus, but against the EU, the UN, and any sense of human rights and international law. Subsequently, this development raised significant obstacles in the ongoing effort for a resumption of reunification talks. The “re-opening” of the fenced area of Varosha, under conditions of military occupation, reveals Ankara’s real intention to permanently divide Cyprus.

    This intention was confirmed by Erdoğan himself. On 15 November 2020, the Turkish President, in an action of unprecedented provocation, “held a picnic” at Varosha, calling for a “two-state” solution in Cyprus, causing public outrage in Cyprus – even among Turkish Cypriots – and drawing condemnation from the international community.

    Once again, Erdoğan is behaving like a bully. Turkey is further distancing itself from EU standards and values, not only by violating human rights and dignity within Turkey, but also by manipulating the crisis in Syria, weaponising refugees against the EU, openly threatening the territorial integrity of Greece and Cyprus, and fuelling the conflicts in Libya and the Caucasus. Finally, the Turkish President has proceeded with insulting remarks against EU leaders. Erdoğan’s regime follows anachronistic methods, a dangerous mix of venomous rhetoric and aggressive actions.

    History has taught us that appeasement policy can sometimes lead to a greater threat of war. Turkey’s aggressivity is becoming bolder by the day. The time for words has passed.  The EU cannot shy away from its responsibilities. The European Parliament has paved the way for this with its latest resolution (11/2020), on Turkey’s recent illegal activities in the wider East Mediterranean. Now, it is the EU Council’s turn in December. We must re-define Europe’s strategy towards Turkey for the short, medium and long-term. Tough sanctions are the only way forward.

    Lefteris Christoforou Margarita Kaimaklioti Foreign Policy Mediterranean

    Lefteris Christoforou

    Margarita Kaimaklioti

    Erdoğan’s Picnic at Varosha: Europe Must Stand Tall Against Turkish Provocations


    07 Dec 2020

  • Since 1 September, the Hungarian government has closed its borders due to the rise in new COVID-19 cases. However, there is an exception made for those citizens of Slovakia, Czechia, and Poland, who work, study, or travel to Hungary. The decision has provoked a reaction from the EC, who calls to respect the integrity and non-discriminatory nature of the Schengen area. How do you perceive this unilateral step from Hungary, especially since its neighbours, such as Serbia and Romania, have many more COVID-19 cases, and yet their borders remain open?

    Dániel Bartha – Executive Director, Centre for Euro-Atlantic Integration and Democracy, Hungary: The government was rushing to make a highly visible decision. They even failed to inform Hungarian authorities, such as the Border protection agency, on time. The decision to keep V4 relations unchanged was based on political considerations and the experience from the spring when these countries had much lower numbers. Later, the decision was corrected, but it shed light on some dysfunctionality in decision-making. I wouldn’t consider it an anti-EU move, although the EU should be criticised for not using the summer period to further harmonise the decision-making process regarding the closure of Schengen borders, which gives more room to such unilateral decisions.

    Vladimír Bartovic, Director, EUROPEUM, Czechia:  I am generally against the closure of borders between EU member states. Of course, all countries have the right to protect their citizens from the spread of COVID-19, but in my opinion, countries should demand a negative COVID-19 test, rather than closing the borders.

    I agree with the European Commission that Hungary’s decision to give exemptions based on citizenship is discriminatory. If there are some exemptions, they should be based on residence rather than citizenship, and well-argued from the epidemiological point of view.

    Miriam Lexmann, Member of the European Parliament, Slovakia: The unilateral closure of borders in March 2020 has highlighted the need for EU Member States to coordinate or, at the very least, to communicate their intentions in advance. No doubt, the closure of borders opens a moral question of whether freedom of movement is more important than the protection and health of citizens. Yet, there are mechanisms in place for situations where Member States must re-impose internal Schengen borders. Therefore, I think that such steps should be coordinated within the EU in advance, and according to set mechanisms, so that citizens and other countries impacted by the situation can adequately prepare.

    Much attention is being paid to the Czech Senate Speaker Miloš Vystrčil, who made an official visit to Taiwan, accompanied by a large delegation of politicians, businessmen, and scientists. According to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Vystrčil will pay a very high price for his visit to Taiwan, thereby not respecting the One-China Principle. His trip was supported by the Slovak president, along with French and German officials. Can we expect that the Visegrád Group will adopt a less assertive approach towards China?

    Dániel Bartha: Hungary will be the last country to join the V4 on this issue, but if it is necessary, it will show solidarity with Czechia. Although 16+1 can be declared dead, the government is still convinced that keeping the country in the Euro-Atlantic alliance and having good relations with China are simultaneously possible, despite EU and NATO membership officials often referring to a neutral status. Obviously, this position is not sustainable, but it’s important to understand that economic interests are the only aspect which the government considers. While the economy will contract by 7 to 10%, and Hungarian trade volume was falling in every direction, we have recorded a 20% growth in import volume and a 4% growth in export to China.

    I believe Chinese and Czech relations are poisoned, and we have passed the point of return for good relations. It is now a matter of time before Slovakia will join Czechia on this issue. Due to its geopolitical interests, Poland will support the US position on China, which will soon leave Hungary alone on this issue within the V4.

    Vladimír Bartovic: How to approach relations with China was, is, and certainly will be a very divisive issue, not just among the different countries, but also between different political parties, and even between different politicians within individual parties, as the Czech example demonstrates. The Czech Senate Speaker Mr. Vystrčil’s journey to Taiwan was criticised by other Czech representatives, such as President Zeman or Prime-Minister Babiš. But the Chinese reaction, consisting of blackmailing and threatening Mr. Vystrčil and other members of the delegation, crossed all lines of acceptable diplomatic behaviour. I would have expected more solidarity from the Visegrád states’ representatives, or even from the EU as a whole in this case. Visegrád foreign ministers could have declared that the language used by Minister Wang Yi is unacceptable. On the other hand, I do not expect any changes in the approach of V4 countries towards China in reaction to this incident.

    Miriam Lexmann: As was stated in an open letter I initiated with Alexandr Vondra (Czech Republic/ECR) in support for Mr. Vystrčil and signed by nearly 70 political leaders worldwide, all sovereign countries have the right to determine their relations with Taiwan without the interference of the Chinese Communist Party.

    Given the vulnerabilities exposed during the current pandemic, the realities of the corrosive impact of Chinese investment in some countries, and empty promises in others, as well as the arrogance of Chinese diplomats and officials, there is an ongoing shift in opinion about the Chinese authoritarian regime within the Visegrád Group. There is, however, the need for an EU-wide re-assessment of our relations with China. Therefore, it is not simply a question for the Visegrád Four whether to adopt a more assertive and principled approach, but for the whole of the EU.

    Eastern Europe EU Member States Foreign Policy

    Are the Visegrád Four ready for a new approach towards China?

    Other News

    14 Sep 2020

  • The departure of the UK from the EU is taking place at a time when the Union is ramping up its own ambitions in the field of security and defence. The EU is pursuing the goal of strategic autonomy to make itself a more influential actor on the world stage. It has initiated a number of programmes, such as Permanent Structured Cooperation and the European Defence Fund, with the aim of spending its defence euros more productively. These European initiatives may well drive the UK further away from the EU as they embody the very integration that had driven the UK to distance itself from the Continent in the first place. Yet this article will argue that the EU still needs to engage the important military capabilities of the UK to be successful in its new ventures and that the UK will also be exposed to many of the security threats that will keep the EU busy in the future.

    Read the full article of the June 2020 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Jamie Shea Defence European Union Foreign Policy

    Jamie Shea

    European Defence After Brexit: A Plus or a Minus?


    01 Sep 2020

  • Revolution is unfolding in Belarus. We just witnessed its first phase – Alyaksandr Lukashenka has been struck by a landslide defeat, with 60-80 percent of voters choosing Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya. Lukashenka is trying to steal this victory from Belarusians, so the revolution continues in the streets and with strikes. People are going to the streets to defend their victory.

    Some views can be heard in Lithuania and elsewhere in the West, that this revolution is useful for the Kremlin, that it may even have been orchestrated by the Kremlin’s secret service itself. Some believe that Lukashenka is the sole guarantor of the sovereignty of Belarus and that the alternative candidates are the Kremlin’s project. This way, the Kremlin wanted to weaken Lukashenka and drive him to beg for the Kremlin’s assistance, they say.

    These are quite absurd conspiracy insinuations. The driving force of the Belarusian revolution is not one or another candidate, but the radical change within Belarusian society itself. A new civic nation has been born in Belarus. This civic nation is the true leader of the revolution, and Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya is its symbol.

    The unconscious, and totally wrong willingness to accept the continuation of Lukashenka’s rule in Belarus reminds me of the Sąjūdis era, more than 30 years ago. Back then some in the West would call on Lithuanians to “slow down” our pro-independence revolution, as it was harmful to Gorbachev. They would say to us ‘we have to preserve Gorbachev because he is the guarantor of perestroika, your revolution is damaging him’. It is only normal that we did not listen to such insinuations. It is good that today, Belarusians are not so keen either to listen to similar “advice”.

    And now on to the main question – why, in my firm belief, is the Belarusian revolution nothing but a big headache and a nightmare for the Kremlin?

    First, because the birth of the civic nation in Belarus is “contagious” for Russia. We see persistent protests in Khabarovsk, which are very similar to the ones in Belarus – without clear leadership or organisation, but still continuing. Important elections are approaching in Russia – regional elections this September and Duma elections next year. Vladimir Putin understands very well these processes in Belarus, and how they constitute a signal that the authoritarian regimes in the whole post-Soviet hemisphere are approaching their “expiry date”.

    Second, Putin must be aware that he is entrapped: he cannot support the revolution in Belarus (because a similar revolution may start in Russia), which is why he congratulates Lukashenka. However, Lukashenka is as toxic for Belarusians as Yanukovych was for Ukrainians in 2013. Back then, Putin supported Yanukovych, occupied Crimea and part of the Donbas, and became the No. 1 enemy of the Ukrainian nation (“Putin – chuilo”). He actually “helped” Ukrainians to unite and choose the Western path of development.                                   

    The same may happen to Putin with regard to Belarus – he cannot support the revolution, but by supporting Lukashenka he would alienate all those who voted against Lukashenka, making them eager to look for friendship elsewhere, not in Moscow.

    Putin “helped” to consolidate the pro-Western Ukraine. Ukraine has finally left the post-imperial realm of the Kremlin with Putin’s “help” in 2014. Now it’s Belarus’ turn.

    It’s a zugzwang for the Kremlin – whatever it does, it’s bad:  if it supports Lukashenka, it will alienate the Belarusian nation; if it supports the revolution in Belarus, a similar fate awaits in Russia. 

    Bad times for autocrats: in Minsk and in Moscow!

    Zhyve Belarus!

    Andrius Kubilius Democracy EU-Russia Foreign Policy

    Andrius Kubilius

    Belarus: A trap for the Kremlin?


    12 Aug 2020

  • The role of small member states in EU foreign policy is increasingly being challenged, especially in view of the reforms being proposed to make the EU more effective as an international actor. These reforms, if adopted, will require the small Central and Eastern European member states, such as Bulgaria, to rethink their old foreign-policy strategies and practices. Instead of band-wagoning and balancing conflicting interests, these small member states will have to learn to be more proactive, to build their reputations and to form alliances if they want to continue to have any influence on EU foreign policy. These issues are discussed in the light of the EU sanctions adopted against Russia in the aftermath of the Ukrainian–Russian conflict of 2014.

    Read the full article of the June 2020 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Jean F. Crombois EU Member States EU-Russia Foreign Policy

    Jean F. Crombois

    Lilliput Effect Revisited: Small States and EU Foreign Policy


    30 Jul 2020

  • On 26 June 1963, the then-President of the United States John F. Kennedy delivered his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech, underlining the support of the Free World for West Berlin and West Germany.

    47 years later, the Special Procedure 50 of the UN Human Rights Council has issued a statement denouncing Beijing’s repression of Tibet and Hong Kong. The statement came just before the National Security Law in Hong Kong was approved by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.

    The Pearl of the Orient has suddenly earned a new name, as the “West Berlin” of the New Cold War.

    However, unlike in West Berlin, Beijing did not build a wall to prevent its corporations from investing in Hong Kong, nor did it ask foreigners to leave the territory. Beijing has instead always proclaimed that the National Security Law’s introduction was to provide extra assurance of the famed “One Country, Two Systems” doctrine coined by Deng Xiaoping, a leader China has long outgrown.

    However, it is precisely this kind of attitude that should push the European Union to act – beyond expressing “grave concern” – and take the Hong Kong question seriously. The enactment of the National Security Law is a litmus test of the EU’s capacity to defend its interests and universal values in the context of the “Great Decoupling”.

    International relations academics and EU specialists agree that contemporary EU-China relations are determined by two factors (as suggested by Michael Yahuda). First, the tyranny of distance, and second, the primacy of trade. In short, owing to the lack of geopolitical ambition of the EU and the absence of shared geographical boundaries (terrestrial or maritime), the protection and promotion of EU economic interests in China is the core driver of EU action towards China. As a result, the European Union has long been satisfied with the current model of cooperation. In the field of trade and investment, the EU opts for a good trade agreement with the absence of a human rights clause (from the Trade and Cooperation Agreement signed in 1985, to the long-awaited conclusion of the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment). Unlike its “selective engagement” approach with Russia, the European Union currently does not link its business presence in China with better political development and social reform – not to mention the suspected violation of citizens’ safety in Hong Kong.

    The Pearl of the Orient has suddenly earned a new name, as the “West Berlin” of the New Cold War.

    However, the new reality after the enactment of the National Security Law in Hong Kong demands exactly this. As detailed in Article 38, the Law will have extraterritorial effects, as it applies to offences committed outside Hong Kong by a person who is not a permanent resident of the Region. For example, any person who joined the Martens Centre’s recent online webinar discussing the situation in Hong Kong is at risk of prosecution under Article 38, as participating can be viewed as provoking hatred, or even sanctions towards Beijing. The National Security Law is without a doubt a threat against the fundamental rights and freedoms enjoyed by European citizens, political parties, think-tanks, or activist groups. The message from Beijing is clear: anyone who wishes to do business in Hong Kong must respect China’s concept of national security – regardless of that person’s nationality or their locality.

    The National Security Law impacts European corporations as well. According to the latest implementation rules, the authorities are empowered to “freeze, restrain, confiscate, and forfeit any property related to offences endangering national security”. They also may require foreign political organisations and agents to provide information on activities concerning Hong Kong. The Law deliberately creates a dilemma and makes it clear to European companies. If a company surrenders information to the authorities, they violate their clients’ goodwill. If a company does not cooperate, its business interests in Hong Kong and mainland China will suffer. Beijing is effectively leveraging the West’s extensive business network and economic interests in Hong Kong, in order to test the European Union’s ability to balance its pursuit of commercial benefits and commitment to universal values.

    From Beijing’s perspective, should European companies and EU Member States kowtow to the new arrangement in Hong Kong, Beijing will have full confidence that economic interests will always serve as good diplomatic leverage against the EU. In this case, the comprehensive investment agreement in its current form serves the foremost political interests of Beijing. Maintaining the status quo does not give the European Union any competitive edge against China’s sharp power in Europe. Only by acting in one voice and addressing the Hong Kong question seriously, can the European Union change the status quo and explore new possibilities in EU-China relations.

    This article does not advocate for sanctions against Beijing, nor does it ask the EU to provide a UK-esque lifeboat policy to the citizens of Hong Kong. Instead, this thesis pleads for Europeans to act with one voice, and for the European Union to re-discover its diplomatic capacity, rooted in the commanding strength of the Common Market, and its formidable global regulatory regime. As history once showed, any hesitation would turn Europe into an ideological battlefield. Should there be a New Cold War in the 21st century, Brussels ought to utilise its structural strength to protect the very foundation of Europe’s peace, prosperity, and the well-being of its citizens.

    Credits: Image by Jimmy Chan on Pexels

    Hong Kong Global Research Council Democracy European Union Foreign Policy Human Rights

    Hong Kong Global Research Council

    More than “West Berlin”: The EU should take the Hong Kong question seriously


    27 Jul 2020

  • Despite the triumphant mood of Russian officials and state media about the recent constitutional ‘referendum’ results, no one in Russian civil society seems genuinely impressed. The consequences of the vote for Putin’s future may be drastically different from what he expected.

    A few things are important to understand. Primarily, this was not a ‘referendum’, but rather an opinion poll with fairly relaxed rules and a near-complete absence of independent supervision over voting and vote counting. It was exempt from the standard rules of holding elections regulated by the law, and was instead regulated by a vague instruction of the Central Elections Commission. This body had strictly limited observers to those de facto appointed by the authorities, banned media from being present at the vote count, and allowed very relaxed rules for casting ballots (voting from home, voting electronically, even voting in public parks, shopping malls, etc). The vote was held over 7 days, with no real control over possible tampering with the ballots during that period. A pocketful of irregularities are explained in detail by the independent NGO Golos, who concluded that this ‘vote’ cannot be taken seriously by any reasonable standard.

    Despite the fact that Putin wants to portray this ‘vote’ as his personal triumph, authorities and state media have deliberately hidden its real purpose from the people. As Golos correctly stated, most ‘information materials’ concentrated on the populist amendments to the Constitution (pensions, wages, animal rights protection, etc.), which only constitute about 10% of the total amendments. Major changes to the system of power – including the extension of Putin’s possible term of office to 2036 – were barely mentioned at all. There are recorded cases of exit poll interviews with voters who voted in favour of the amendments, yet had no idea that Putin’s term extension was included in the package (videos like that are widely available online, like this one).

    It is in fact a very open question what Russians really voted for. Public opinion on the most important amendment, the extension of Putin’s term in office, is sharply split, unlike opinion on the populist amendments which are largely supported. But the real purpose of the vote, as mentioned above, was carefully hidden.

    Then comes the fraud. Sergey Shpilkin, a renowned electoral mathematician who has carefully analysed all Russian elections for well over a decade by examining voting results anomalies, concludes that about half of the ‘yes’ votes were rigged. This was especially easy to pull off this time due to the relaxed rules of the ‘referendum’.

    The hard reality for Putin is that the public is aware of this. No one was convinced by the results announced, since everybody saw how the fraud took place, and pressure on state-affiliated employees and their relatives to vote ‘yes’ was truly enormous this time. One thing that was visibly lacking in Russia during the days of the vote was enthusiasm to support Vladimir Putin – one can hardly find even a few drops of it in the ocean of voting fraud and compulsion.

    And yet, despite all this, 21% of Russians according to official results, and 35% according to estimates of real voting by Mr. Shpilkin, have voted ‘No’. That is deeply disturbing news for Putin, who, in previous years, had tried to dwell on the assumption that his opponents in society are measured in single-digit percentage points.

    What next? Record low support for Putin and continuing negative trends give the opposition strong tailwinds in the upcoming political battles. In the forthcoming ‘real’ elections regulated by election law – such as the regional elections of this September and upcoming State Duma elections in 2021 – Putin will face an uphill battle of a magnitude which he probably never experienced before. In hindsight, the Moscow municipal ballot and ensuing protests of 2019 will look like a light rehearsal compared to this.

    Putin also understands this. In response, he keeps modifying electoral rules, making it harder for independent candidates to get registered, and is considering applying the recently tested 7-day voting period to all future elections (which makes it effectively impossible to safeguard ballot boxes from fraud). But the opposition is now much more skilled to bypass novel obstacles, and, more importantly, we now have stronger backing from civil society than ever before. For starters, the Navalny Live YouTube channel now enjoys around 10 million unique viewers a month, making it a truly strong competitor to state propaganda (whose viewership numbers are fading). We have been tested through repression and intimidation and can withstand it.

    Difficult times lie ahead, and Putin’s romance with Russia is over. He completely failed to revive it with a totally fraudulent and unconvincing ‘constitutional vote’.

    Vladimir Milov Democracy Foreign Policy Values

    Vladimir Milov

    Putin’s referendum: what next?


    06 Jul 2020

  • While most of the world underwent some degree of confinement due to the spread of COVID-19, the Belarusian government not only denied the existence of the virus, it actually continued with business as usual, scheduling the country’s presidential election for August 9. While in the past, Lukashenka’s victory was a given, this time the election’s outcome is not as predictable. For the first time in 26 years, there are real contenders who could challenge the sitting President.

    In order to qualify for the election, candidates must secure a minimum of 100,000 signatures, which will be verified on July 14. Popular YouTube blogger Sergei Tikhanovski was considering joining the race, but since he was detained and then banned from running, it seems there will be two candidates allowed to go forward, besides those controlled by the government. They are the former Chairman of Belgazprombank, Viktor Babariko, (also currently detained) and the former leader of the Belarusian IT hub Hi-Tech Park, former ambassador to the United States, and Deputy Head of the Foreign Ministry, Valeri Tsepkalo. The surprising thing about these names is that they are not part of the opposition – they are regime insiders, members of the business elite.

    While jailing opposition leaders, intimidating independent media, and cracking down on peaceful protests continues to be the modus operandi of Lukashenka, this constitutes a deeper development that the regime cannot control. Belarusians are discontent with the government and are taking their frustration to the streets. The hundreds of people demonstrating against Lukashenka’s re-election demonstrate their courage and strong motivation for change, especially when considering the unorthodox methods of repression employed by the government.

    Years of economic stagnation, a pessimistic economic forecast of a 4 to 5% decline in the country’s GDP by the end of the year, increasing pressure from Russia, and a disregard for fundamental freedoms have led civil society to actively voice their opposition to the establishment’s methods. The fact that two other candidates from the regime’s inner circle stand ready to challenge the status quo is a strong political signal.

    It is difficult not to draw similarities between what is happening in Belarus and the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine back in 2014. Belarusian civil society is expressing its dissatisfaction with the lack of democracy, close ties to Russia, and abuse of freedoms by the government – a very similar picture to what we saw on Majdan Square during Yanukovych’s rule. In the worst-case scenario, Lukashenka can decide to follow Yanukovych’s footsteps, and resort to using violence against protesters, but too many eyes are watching. Several MEPs issued a statement on Belarus on June 18, calling for a fair campaign and a fair election. The EU and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) both have condemned the crackdown on peaceful protests.

    Looking back at the Ukrainian experience, we can definitely say that a push for change from civil society can be very powerful and lead to significant developments. In the Belarusian case, it does not necessarily mean regime change. Lukashenka’s demise has been predicted several times in the past, but he has survived to this day. However, it is important that Belarusian people understand that they are standing at a crossroads between the status quo of an authoritarian regime and a democratically elected President. “Choosing” the regime means remaining in Russia’s orbit, who resorts to blackmail if things don’t go as planned. Indeed, the Kremlin has cut oil flows to Belarus earlier this year, after the collapse of last year’s talks between Russia and Belarus over forming a “union state”.

    For the elections to be free, fair, and transparent, all candidates should have equal access to independent media, which unfortunately will not be the case. Opposition leaders are being detained, threatened and silenced. Nevertheless, long queues to place a signature for a candidate, despite COVID-19, have shown that Belarusians highly value democracy and structural reforms. A poll conducted by independent media outlets, later banned, placed Lukashenka with only 6% support within the country.

    As in the case of Ukraine, there is no magic spell to transition from repression of political opponents and peaceful protesting, to full democracy – it takes time, strong will, and perseverance. But having the option of choosing a President freely is a prerogative of the Belarusian people, one that the citizens are fighting for.

    Belarus’ southern neighbour, Ukraine, has undoubtedly beat the old corrupt system of elections, as its people have now voted freely in two Presidential elections since the protests on Majdan. The country still has a long way to go in terms of reforms, but a democratically elected President is the first and most important step towards success.

    Belarus would benefit immensely from the respect of democratic values, closer ties to the EU, structural reforms, and a break from the past. After 26 years in power, it’s time for Lukashenka to accept the new direction that Belarusian citizens are asking for. Should he win the election, he must let go of the old ways and embrace the fundamental freedoms that the country deserves.

    Anna Nalyvayko Democracy Foreign Policy Society Values

    Anna Nalyvayko

    Curtain Call for Lukashenka?


    29 Jun 2020

  • For as long as the EU has had a China policy to speak of, it has been ambiguous. The EU’s most recent China strategy calls the country “a partner, a competitor, and a systemic rival.” Europeans understand the challenge posed by Chinese mercantilism and its ambitions for continental hegemony. Even before the pandemic, most Europeans held an unfavourable view of China, with 70 percent of Swedes and 57 percent of Czechs seeing the country in a negative light. However, devising a coherent approach has proven difficult.

    One reason is that even among the more ‘hawkish’ countries, there is not necessarily an understanding of what an effective European response should resemble. For France, Chinese mercantilism is best confronted by mercantilism of a European variety: building European champions and tossing aside competition and state rules. But that is a no-go for governments of smaller countries wary of China – say, Sweden – who nevertheless understand that European monopolies showered with public funds are a costly and ineffective response to the challenge at hand.

    Another reason is a persistent distrust of US President Donald Trump. Joining forces with the United States is a losing political proposition as long as America is seen as erratic, mercurial, and primarily concerned with its own bilateral trade deficit, instead of the broader economic and geopolitical challenges that China’s rise involves.

    Yet, the current triangulation between Beijing and Washington often requires a denial of reality. At his recent press conference, the High Representative Josep Borrell claimed that Chinese leadership “do not have military ambitions and they do not want to use force and participate in military conflicts”, notwithstanding China’s recent grab of Indian territory and the militarisation of the South China Sea. Whom does one believe: Mr Borrell or one’s lying eyes?

    The EU’s ambiguity has also provided a permission structure for member states to strike deals with China, which will harm the continent’s interests over the long term. Examples include Italy’s embrace of the Belt and Road initiative – or, more recently, the rushed and secretive decision by the Hungarian government to proceed with the construction of a Chinese-financed rail connection with Belgrade.

    Finally, the lack of a principled China policy erodes the EU’s status as a champion of human rights and democracy around the world – a mantle which Europeans have been keen to carry in the era of ‘America First’. After years of pussyfooting around the status of Taiwan, Tibet, or the regime’s appalling treatment of the Uighur minority, the milquetoast criticism of China over its crackdown on Hong Kong is a case in point. An unambiguous violation of a commitment that was thought to carry the full force of international law requires more than “grave concern” and to “raise the issue in our continuing dialogue with China”, as Mr Borrell’s office put it.

    With its heavy-handed ‘public diplomacy’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Beijing has squandered a lot of goodwill in Europe. “We should not shy away from naming and shaming” said Věra Jourová, the European Commission’s vice-president, regarding China’s disinformation efforts in the wake of the pandemic. Ms Jourová’s home country, Czechia, saw the Chinese regime seek to co-opt political and business elites for years, inviting a broad-based backlash after it overplayed its hand.

    The current situation is Europe’s opportunity to rethink and step up. The simultaneous invocation of ‘partnership’, ‘competition’, and ‘systemic rivalry’ in the EU’s relationship with China is not sustainable. Partnership presupposes trust and the existence of common goals. Competitors have different interests but adhere to shared rules of the game. Conversely, a ‘systemic rival’, as the Greens’ MEP Reinhard Bütikofer correctly put it, “just wants to win.”

    Nobody expects the EU to embark on a Trump-led China crusade or to ‘decouple’ itself from Chinese trade and investment flows. Yet, clear guidance for member states on Chinese investment in critical sectors, whether they be infrastructure, finance, or tech, would be helpful. Similarly, a commitment to exclude Huawei from 5G networks across the bloc and joining the UK’s bourgeoning initiative to get the world’s leading democracies to cooperate on technological alternatives to Huawei are worthwhile endeavours.

    The EU ought to be ready to walk away from the mirage of an investment treaty with China, currently in its 30th negotiating round. The EU wants China to scrap quantitative restrictions, equity caps, and joint venture requirements currently imposed on European companies. Also, EU businesses ought to be able to “compete on an equal footing when operating in China” by achieving “non-discriminatory treatment, prohibition of performance requirements – in other words, measures requiring investors to behave in a certain way or to achieve certain outcomes (including those leading to forced technology transfer) – and equal participation in standard-setting work.”

    Unfortunately, those practices are central to China’s state capitalism. The absence of noticeable progress since the decision was taken to start negotiations in 2012 shows that no matter how hard the EU presses for “full reciprocity”, a non-discriminatory business environment in China is not on the table. Meanwhile, Beijing is eager to turn Western economies into its playground. After all, only 15 per cent of Chinese corporations listed on the Fortune Global 500 are in private hands.

    European discussions over China would be much easier if the United States today were a trusted and reliable partner, providing strategic guidance, instead of the current administration’s petty displays of hostility towards the EU. The nature of China’s challenge to Europe, however, remains unchanged, regardless of who the current occupant of the White House is. Thus, it is imperative that Europeans use the window of opportunity provided by the pandemic and Beijing’s overreach to step up, hopefully to be joined in their efforts by the United States.

    Credits: Photo by Peggy_Marco on Pixabay

    Dalibor Roháč Crisis EU Member States European Union Foreign Policy

    Dalibor Roháč

    In the wake of COVID-19, the EU must do better to address China’s rise


    18 Jun 2020

  • What should be the European Union’s reaction to the Hong Kong national security law adopted by China? More generally, what should be the EU stance towards China’s oppression of various minorities?

    José María Aznar, Former Prime Minister of Spain:

    “We should align our efforts with those of our allies, creating a diplomatic coalition to put pressure on Beijing and to warn against China’s failure to preserve Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedom under “one country, two systems”. We have to prepare possible economic sanctions as our response to China’s decision to impose new security legislation. Our response must be convincing to discourage possible Chinese coercion of minorities and especially of Taiwan.”

    Carl Bildt, Former Prime Minister of Sweden:

    “On the issue of Hong Kong, it’s important to coordinate our stance closely with international partners, especially with the UK, since it is very much the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984 that we must insist on being implemented to the letter and the spirit. Only by acting together, with a broader group of countries – including Canada and Australia – can we have any possible impact.”

    Antonis Samaras, Former Prime Minister of Greece:

    “When Hong Kong was integrated back to China in 1997, the general agreement was that nothing should challenge the overall sovereignty of China, and nothing should undermine the basic democratic principles already enjoyed by the people of Hong Kong, including the right of self-governance, their separate western-based judicial system, or the rights of various minorities. The Basic Law of Hong Kong – its formal term – was acceptable by all sides, and formalised the “one country, two systems” principle. This was a balanced approach that has worked so far and I do not believe it should change. I am gravely concerned about the repercussions of any attempt to undermine this agreement.”

    Can the EU adopt a common strategy in response to China’s bid for global hegemony, and what should this be? Can Europe “decouple” from China?

    José María Aznar: “For most of the last decade, the EU has looked at China through the prism of economic opportunity. Beijing’s transgressions, whether they are phasing out human rights in the country, dislodging South China Sea neighbours, stealing intellectual property from the West, or running propaganda and disinformation campaigns, have been ignored. Now, democratic nations need to make themselves less vulnerable to potential Chinese economic pressure and focus on security issues related to 5G networks. The EU’s common strategy must be based on three principles: 1) recognising that Europe’s values and interests are indivisible, 2) asking China’s government for reciprocity of market access, 3) cooperating with China on cross-cutting issues.”

    Carl Bildt: “I don’t think China aspires to “global hegemony”, but they clearly seek to gain increased influence in different ways, particularly in their widely defined periphery. The EU’s policy must rest on two pillars. To engage with China on issues like climate, global trade, and global health, but also to stand firm on issues of human rights, democracy, and non-interference. However, “decoupling” is a strange concept – we are not “coupled” with China. And no one will be able to ignore what will eventually become the largest economy in the world.”

    Antonis Samaras: “I believe we should have a common policy vis-à-vis China. But it should be an inclusive approach, not an exclusive one. Extensive dependence on international supply lines from China is not good for Europe or China. On the other hand, alienating China is also wrong. There is room for an “intermediate” solution, balancing the legitimate concerns from all sides.”

    The US is pursuing an increasingly unilateral approach on China, which might put the EU in an uncomfortable position. How do you expect this to affect the transatlantic relationship, and what is the best policy for Europe?

    José María Aznar: “The EU is in an uncomfortable position, but even with the current deep crisis in the transatlantic relationship, there can be no contest for the EU between its alliance with the world’s most powerful democracy, and a communist state that parades its contempt for European values. There is a strategic imperative to work together with the US, because the challenge posed by China will grow in the years to come, and only together can we safeguard the liberal international order.”

    Carl Bildt: “We must develop our own approach, and the paper from March of last year is a good start. What is profoundly embarrassing is that the EU is often blocked by some member states from being critical towards certain Chinese policies, notably when it comes to human rights. We must also hope that there will be someone in the White House open to constructive dialogue with the EU on these issues, so that a common position can evolve.”

    Antonis Samaras: “Europe is a long-standing trading partner and security ally of the United States. Europe is also a valuable trading partner of China. We will probably have to redefine both of these partnerships. However, most importantly, we must make them “compatible”. Europe can act as a valuable mediator between the US and China.”

    Crisis Democracy European Union Foreign Policy

    How should the EU handle relations with China?

    Other News

    15 Jun 2020

  • We should not be worried about the emergence of China as a superpower, wielding influence and power at a comparable level to the United States. China’s geography will not allow it. Instead, we should be worried about China as a globally influential superpower, less powerful than the US, but still dominating East Asia, building a global bloc of like-minded, authoritarian countries, rivalling the rules-based international order and undermining democratic standards around the world.

    In recent years, China has visibly increased its economic and political power. In some circles, the idea is emerging that China may become a superpower and regional hegemon comparable to the US. These fears are being highlighted by the seemingly ruthlessly effective way China is dealing with the COVID-19 crisis and how, allegedly, our Western democracies are a comparative failure.

    China is now the second-largest economy in the world, it has begun to dominate numerous high-tech industrial sectors, and it is rapidly developing its military. Globally, it is the most important trade partner for countless countries. Its coordinated diplomatic efforts, inter alia through sharp power, make China able to leverage its stance better and become an increasingly influential player in global affairs. However, geography puts clear external and internal limits on China’s power.

    China is a landlocked country, surrounded by rivals. The Korean Peninsula is inhabited by two countries with a history of hostility towards China. Japan is an island nation, with a strong blue-water navy, able to block China’s access to the Pacific and maybe even to the Indian Ocean. Taiwan is effectively a mountain stronghold, with a capable military. Without controlling Taiwan, it is effectively impossible to control the South China Sea, a strategic area for China’s security through which most of its trade passes. Over the Himalayas, there is India, a distinct civilisation with its own ambitions and nuclear arsenal. With Russia, China is competing for the post-Soviet space, which is hardly helping relations, even if their rapport has become friendlier recently. China also has numerous internal issues. For instance, people in Hong Kong do not want to be a part of Mainland China, and there is separatism in Xinjiang. China is also poor in natural resources and barely able to feed itself without being reliant on imports.

    The Chinese momentum and the challenges for the EU

    Still, even with its constraints, China’s rise is a challenge for the EU. America’s shrinking global presence changes a lot in the global balance of power. The US Navy may soon cease ensuring the freedom of the seas, a global public good that is essential for international trade. Due to the American retrenchment, the multipolar, unstable global system, with emerging great power rivalries, may unfold soon. China will be a very strong pole of power, that will have to be taken into every equation, especially the European one.

    China is assertively and persistently fighting for global influence and, despite impediments, behaving like it wants to replace the US as the most powerful state in the international system. It is developing both its ‘Made in China 2025’ project and the Belt and Road Initiative, aimed at distorting world trade, by flooding it with price-dumped products. China is slowly becoming dominant in certain high-tech, high-value technology industries, like 5G and face-recognition. China is also spending more on defence and rapidly developing its military capabilities.

    This coalesces with its diplomatic efforts, consisting of actions aimed at building an alternative global order, based on an alliance of countries, like Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, uniting against liberal democracies. China aims to undermine the legitimacy of the international, liberal, rules-based order, in order to gain more power. This should be vigorously countered. The EU needs to become more active, then reactive, and begin taking strong action against this threat.

    Developing a European narrative and response

    First of all, the EU needs to build a narrative to tackle China and other autocracies, that are aiming to delegitimise the current global order. It needs to be able to point out the numerous failures of autocracies, which are covered up by shiny construction projects, and point out the fact that there does not exist any viable and fair alternative to the international, rules-based global order. It also must be able to better illustrate the benefits that the current order yields, and the risks any alternatives may bring.

    The EU also needs to engage in an economic action plan. This means introducing legal measures that would prohibit buy-outs of our economy’s crown jewels and innovative companies, by China’s state-backed entities. It also means stopping the development of 5G infrastructure by Huawei in Europe, and investing in alternatives like Nokia and Ericsson, even if it is more costly in the short term. There is also a need for an expansion of funding to be able to support the development of states in need of cash, especially those in Africa, but also in Europe. Challenging Chinese influence also means paying more attention to Asia and what is happening there, as Asia is home to a major share of global economic growth. Trade deals with Japan, Singapore, and ratifying the one with Vietnam should be just the beginning of enhanced cooperation with the region.

    Moreover, if the EU will not take its security and defence seriously, that would mean engaging in an ambitious process to boost the member states military capabilities, as the efforts mentioned before, even if they are all undertaken, will not suffice. No one will be impressed, and especially not China, by empty talks about multilateralism, rules-based order and fair trade, if it is not backed up by hard power and if the is EU unable to take care of its own security.

    China, as a strategic competitor of the EU, should not be appeased. It should be engaged with confidence and wit, as the future wellbeing of all Europeans depends on it.

    Jan Czarnocki Economy European Union Foreign Policy Security

    Jan Czarnocki

    Watch out and act fast: shaping the EU’s strategic response to China


    14 May 2020

  • What does the Coronavirus mean for the EU as an international actor?

    Jamie Shea, Senior Research Associate, Martens Centre:

    “The crisis is still far from over, and this gives the EU time and opportunity to re-assert its relevance. Its institutions and their leaders should focus on clear objectives and persuade EU national leaders and their bureaucracies, currently beleaguered by COVID-19 pandemic management and lockdowns, to join this effort now.

    The first objective concerns recovery. The severe economic contraction in the industrialised countries could tip the global economy into a prolonged depression. So, the primary role for the EU is to lead the G7 and G20 together with the international financial institutions to come up with a coordinated global strategy to restart the global economy as soon as the virus subsides. The EU can best engage China in this effort in a way that the US finds increasingly difficult. China is where the virus originated, and it is the first major economic powerhouse to recover and restart production. So, it has a particular responsibility to help the rest of the world. The EU will need to persuade China to re-capitalise the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank and fully open the Chinese market to foreign goods and services. 

    A second priority is to help Africa. African countries mostly lack the sanitary conditions, health infrastructure, and the possibility to self-isolate that richer countries enjoy. Yet if the pandemic is not contained in Africa with its rapidly rising population and exposure to climate change, migration flows, and jihadist extremism, the EU will have an even bigger security headache to deal with. COVID-19 would mutate and quickly spread back to Europe. So now is the time for the EU to develop a true health Marshall Plan for Africa and work with the World Health Organization (WHO), the African Union and the financial institutions and development agencies to elaborate an effective strategy before the pandemic runs into the millions and, like AIDS 20 years ago, brings entire African societies to the brink of collapse.

    Finally, this pandemic will not be the last. The crisis has revealed multiple weaknesses in the global health management system from delays in sharing vital information, contradictory messaging and the spreading of fake news and disinformation, to uncoordinated responses and a lack of testing kits, respirators, and protective clothing. If the early stages of managing COVID-19 have been primarily national, emerging from it smoothly will need credible, authoritative guidance coming from international institutions. The EU should, therefore, lead an international ‘lessons learned’ exercise and push its conclusions robustly in the G7, G20, and UN bodies as well as regional organisations to ensure that the global community is better equipped to act early next time around. We need to mobilise more resources to lock down the pathogens before they spread beyond the point of origin. The EU can lead the way, first and foremost, by coordinating the crisis exit activities of its own 27 member states. It will then be in a stronger position to mobilise the rest of the world behind a better strategy for prevention.”

    Giselle Bosse, Research Associate, Martens Centre:

    “The picture of the EU as a failing, dysfunctional international actor in the COVID-19 crisis is misleading, at least up until now. The EU has minimal powers in the area of health, it can make recommendations, but member states are free to ignore them. And where it could, in areas of its legal competence, the Commission has already taken actions, for example, measures with regards to the lifting of export restrictions on medical equipment imposed by individual member states, or guidelines on borders to ensure the free movement of goods. The real challenge for the EU, the economic response to the crisis, is only just unfolding. This is an area in which the EU has significant competencies and instruments. Finding an agreement on financial rescue measures is not only crucial for the EU’s ability to offset the devastating economic consequences of COVID-19 and safeguard its standing as a major world trading power. Agreement on a joint economic response is also vital for trust and solidarity among the EU’s member states, which in turn is a precondition for a common EU foreign policy, including ongoing and future attempts to strengthen the EU’s autonomous security and defence capabilities.

    Moreover, while much focus is (rightly) placed on containing COVID-19, saving lives and economic rescue, Human Rights Watch, among others, reminded the EU that ‘governments should avoid sweeping and overly broad restrictions on movement and personal liberty’ and cautioned against governments requesting movement data from mobile providers, which violates the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). To make things worse, on 30 March, Hungary passed a law that gives sweeping new powers to Prime Minister Viktor Orban to rule by decree, for an unlimited period of time. The manner in which the EU and its member states will handle human rights and democratic principles in the current crisis will send important signals internationally, and will very likely have implications for its credibility and legitimacy as a normative power.

    In conclusion, much of the current criticism and depiction of the EU as a dysfunctional international actor in the COVID-19 crisis has been exaggerated, and often exploited for (geo-)political purposes. The current crisis will neither lead to the decline of the EU ‘as we know it’, nor will it fundamentally change global order or the EU’s geopolitical problems. However, the EU’s response to the crisis will send important signals beyond Europe, which can have significant implications for the credibility of the EU as an international actor. Such signals range from the EU’s commitment to multilateral trade (versus the EU’s ‘protectionist turn’) to its commitment to human rights and democracy (versus the toleration of illiberal governments and policies within the EU), its commitment to fighting climate change (versus calls to delay the Green Deal in times of economic crisis) and, above all, the member states’ commitment to social solidarity (versus national economic self-interest). How COVID-19 impacts the EU’s credibility as an international actor is (still) pretty much in its own hands.”

    Jolyon Howorth, Senior Research Associate, Martens Centre:

    “The pandemic is global; the response has been national/regional. The EU’s reputation for normative or soft power has been battered. The Union abandoned multilateral solidarity, even in the area (the welfare state) where it claimed superiority over other regimes. The EU, as an ‘actor’, has evaporated; member states closed borders and hoarded vital medical resources.

    The crisis over finances replicated the Eurozone crisis, featuring a bitter internal struggle over the mutualisation of debt. Christine Lagarde initially declared it was ‘not the ECB’s responsibility’ to worry about German-Italian bond spreads. The refusal of the North to respond to Southern pleas for ‘Coronabonds’ poses an existential threat to the Union itself.

    The crisis has demonstrated Asian efficiency and Western fumbling, highlighted by Trumpian denial. Transatlantic relations are in limbo. Logically, this should prompt a clear shift of EU strategy towards collective sovereignty and autonomy – faced with Beijing as a potential hegemon and Washington as a false friend. Yet, as a result of the crisis, the Union is uniquely ill-placed to pursue that path.

    COVID-19 suggests the need for a total re-think of the balance of spending on defence and health. The ‘invisible enemy’ has demonstrated an exponentially greater need for protection against nature than against neighbours. The climate crisis awaits its turn on the stage.

    The kaleidoscope has been shaken, and the pieces will take years to settle. Muddling through is henceforth akin to a death wish.”

    Constantine Arvanitopoulos, Senior Research Associate, Martens Centre:

    Europe is overwhelmed by a pandemic crisis of almost biblical proportions.

    As countries are scrambling to deal with the immediate requirements of a colossal health emergency, an even greater threat looms on the horizon. Economists are warning us of the threat of an economic depression more significant than that of 1929.     

    Our response to the health crisis was not the best moment of European solidarity. We will always be haunted by the images of the military lorries carrying the dead of the city of Bergamo and European member states looking to China for health aid and equipment.

    This pandemic now threatens to infect the European «body politic». In political philosophy’s great tradition, the analogy between disease and civil disorder was proposed to encourage rulers to show foresight (Machiavelli) and reason (Hobbes), to prevent fatal disorder.

    In this tradition, the tragic loss of life should mobilise European leadership to prevent the recession from turning into a prolonged depression. As Mario Draghi wrote, unforeseen circumstances require a change of mindset, or as  Keynes had put it, ‘when the facts change, I change my mind’. This is a war, and wars are financed by public debt. Otherwise, the cost of inaction will be devastating. Those in Europe that do not succumb to reason and adapt to change will have no one to blame but themselves.”

    Niklas Nováky, Research Officer, Martens Centre:

    “The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Europe hard. Its immediate consequences will be economic and social in character. National governments across Europe will have to adopt unprecedented stimulus packages, adjust their existing budgets, and increase their national debt to protect their populations and economies from the pandemic and its eventual fallout. Yet, the pandemic will impact other policy areas as well.

    With regard to the EU’s security and defence policy, COVID-19 is likely to make the Union increasingly inward-looking for the foreseeable future. As during the global economic and the eurozone debt crises, political willingness in the EU to address various crises in the Union’s neighbourhood is likely to decrease, for example. European crisis management activities won’t cease entirely, of course, as demonstrated by the EU’s recent decision to launch Operation IRINI to monitor the UN arms embargo in Libya. Still, it will become harder to convince EU governments to contribute to various existing and potential new operations, especially if those operations don’t serve their direct national interests.

    The level of ambition of some of the new defence initiatives that the EU has launched since 2016 is also likely to be downscaled. The initiatives in the most immediate danger are the European Defence Fund, the European Peace Facility, and military mobility as their funding levels haven’t yet been agreed upon for the 2021-2027 financial period. Even before COVID-19, several member states expressed unwillingness to finance these initiatives at the levels proposed by the European Commission. COVID-19 will increase the number of such countries, and it is conceivable that some of the initiatives might not receive any funding at all. After all, in one technical compromise proposal made during the February European Council, the budget for military mobility was slashed completely. If this happens, it will be a severe setback to the European Commission’s ambition to be geopolitical.”

    COVID-19 Crisis European Union Foreign Policy

    What does the Coronavirus mean for the EU as an international actor?

    Other News

    08 Apr 2020

  • On January 15th, Vladimir Putin delivered a landmark address to the Russian Parliament, announcing changes to the Russian Constitution paving the way to shaping the post-2024 system of power, and dismissed Dmitry Medvedev’s cabinet, suggesting the new candidate for the position of Prime Minister for the first time since 2012. What happened and why did it happen now?

    Why Putin made such major steps so early?

    It is quite unusual for Putin to make such radical election-oriented steps four years before the expiration of his current Presidential term. Normally, his tactics were to keep his plan secret until about 2-3 months before the elections, to be able to catch his opponents off-guard and push his agenda through voters’ approval quickly, before its potential wears out. This happened in 2000, when Boris Yeltsin announced his early resignation to pave way for Putin’s Presidency; then in 2007, when Medvedev was announced Putin’s nominal seat-keeper successor three months before the March 2008 election; and further in 2011, when Putin’s comeback to power was announced two months before the State Duma elections. Why make such major steps now, when Putin still has a lot of time ahead? 

    One explanation is that Constitutional changes will take time to be adopted – but that still isn’t enough, because the current Constitutional majority of the ruling party and total control over the media allow Putin to adopt whatever changes he wants rather swiftly. The other odd thing is that there are no immediate reasons – neither economic nor political – to sack Dmitry Medvedev’s cabinet right now. Russia’s economy is not doing too well, but there’s nothing catastrophic happening either. The situation is hardly different from where it was months ago and where it is expected to be further into 2020: full-bodied stagnation, as described in economics books.

    It may have made sense if only Putin had appointed a decisive reformist Prime Minister to reshuffle things and move the economy forward – but the candidacy suggested to replace Medvedev, the head of the Tax Revenue Service Mikhail Mishustin, is anything but that (a few more words on him below).

    Politically, one would also expect that such an advantageous move as the sacking of the quite unpopular Medvedev would be tied to some kind of upcoming elections, but these are not on the immediate horizon (State Duma elections are only scheduled for September 2021, and there are no plans yet to move them earlier). The political effect of Medvedev’s sacking (which would most likely be approved by the majority of Russians) will rather quickly expire. So why throw everything at the table at once – Constitutional changes, sacking the Prime Minister, plus also announcing a major social spending package worth around $6,5-7,5 billion a year – while elections are quite far away?

    The obvious answer is that Putin grows extremely worried about his plunging approval ratings and weakening political positions, and his nerve somehow shows up

    It should also be noted that Putin’s moves came as a complete surprise to many top Russian officials. Russian media has even cited unnamed federal Ministers who admitted that Medvedev’s resignation came as a complete surprise to them. This corresponds to my own knowledge – I used to work in the Russian government and have a lot of contacts there, who confirmed to me the completely surprising nature of Putin’s decision on the cabinet’s fate.

    The obvious answer is that Putin grows extremely worried about his plunging approval ratings and weakening political positions, and his nerve somehow shows up. An eye-opener was his annual December 2019 press conference, which was intended to be the usual show of popular support, but instead demonstrated the severe extent of society’s fatigue with Putin: even most of the questions from loyal media were about the country’s serious troubles instead of praising Putin’s leadership, and the commentary on social media was so overwhelmingly negative that Russian TV channels were forced to turn off comments and hide dislikes on Youtube broadcasts under pressure from Putin (the same thing happened with Youtube videos of his New Year’s address).

    Looking at the broader context, another process which is happening in the background are the Kremlin’s preparations for the 2021 Duma elections, which shows a lot of panicking and desperation on the Presidential administration’s part. They seem to be in a desperate search for any fresh ideas and non-political celebrity recruits for the election campaign, ending up with such ridiculous moves as the recent announcement about the creation of a new political party led by the founder of the World of Tanks online game.

    A solid, self-assured leader would definitely be rationing all the major steps that Putin made on Wednesday, gradually announcing them piece by piece on the pathway to 2024: Constitutional changes, Government reshuffle, major social aid packages. To throw them out all at once, way ahead of any elections, looks a bit like panic and desperation to me.

    Act fast to prevent the disastrous political consequences

    There are constant rumours circulating among the Russian power circles that the fresh “classified” opinion polling constantly done by the Kremlin shows that things are much too bad for Putin in terms of public opinion, such that he needs to somehow act fast to prevent the disastrous political consequences. It is also worth saying that the openly published polls also do not paint too bright a picture of him: his popularity is way down, and Russians are clearly unhappy about the situation in the country and disapprove most of the official policies.

    Another sign that Putin may be getting nervous is the candidate for the new Prime Minister. Mikhail Mishustin is the anti-hero of the modern-day Russian economy, a true incarnation of The Beatles’ “Taxman” – he was essentially in the tax collection business for most of the past 20 years, and recent months were filled with headlines of him bragging about tax revenue collection growing by 10-12% year on year, despite a lack of economic growth (which essentially meant a dramatic increase of the tax burden on the economy through toughening tax collection administration).

    Russians are clearly unhappy about the situation in the country and disapprove most of the official policies

    FNS, or Tax Revenue Service headed by Mishustin, is arguably the most hated Government agency by Russian entrepreneurs, and high taxes and burdensome tax collection administration were always occupying the top positions in many recent surveys of business as key factors constraining economic growth. Mishustin was never known for any involvement in the forward-looking and reform-drafting business. He was always fully in the tax collection business. Most definitely, this appointment is not reassuring news for the Russian economy; it rather means further fiscal pressure.

    So why appoint such a man? Arguably, the explanation is similar as to why the Government has been raising taxes and thus killing the economic growth, while at the same time the budget runs huge surpluses and has no immediate need for extra money. Putin is uncertain about the economic future and prefers to entrust Government to a man who guarantees him cash at hand – even at the expense of growth.

    Essentially, the aura of Putin’s Wednesday speech was all about cash redistribution, not growth. He doesn’t seem to care about growth as such. Putin and the new Prime Minister-designate Mishustin are blood brothers in this regard.

    Uncertainty and nervousness behind Putin’s actions

    Uncertainty and nervousness. These are probably the keywords describing the whole set of Putin’s initiatives yesterday. The same goes for proposed Constitutional changes: despite many details announced, it is totally uncertain how the new system of power will work.

    One thing is clear though: there will be no union with Belarus or any full-powered Putin successor as President, as Putin has deemed these scenarios too risky and challenging for his supremacy. He would prefer to stay in power beyond 2024 in a good old-fashioned Central Asian way, a replica of what his buddy Nursultan Nazarbayev did in 2019 – leaving the Presidential post, but retaining power in many ways. Putin has suggested various options to make that happen: we’ll see increased powers of the State Council (Gossovet, which he probably will chair beyond 2024), and more powers on forming the Government devolved to the State Duma.

    Again, it is too early to see how all this will play out – we’re yet to see the draft Constitutional changes – but one thing is clear: Putin has proposed a shift from the current system, which is too centred on the powers of the President, to a more complicated system of checks and balances, which would allow him to retain power beyond 2024 in some new capacity (most likely as the Chair of Gossovet).

    Which means he’s not going anywhere – at least by free will. We will have to get rid of him through political means – shifting the public opinion towards the support of the opposition, and participation in the parliamentary and presidential elections. More on that to follow – but Putin has just unveiled a plan to stay in power as lifetime leader.

    Vladimir Milov Democracy EU-Russia Foreign Policy

    Vladimir Milov

    Putin and the road to 2024: What happened?


    16 Jan 2020

  • In international affairs, the year 2020 has begun dramatically. On 3 January, the US killed Iran’s most powerful military commander, General Qasem Soleimani, in a targeted airstrike in Iraq. The strike came only days after protesters had assaulted the US embassy in Baghdad in an attack for which the Pentagon blamed Iran and Soleimani in particular.

    Iran retaliated on 8 January by hitting American air bases in Iraq with missiles. No American troops were killed and Washington has seemed to accept them as a tit-for-tat response for the earlier strike on Soleimani. Yet, the standoff has also produced casualties: hours after the missile strikes, Iran accidentally shot down Ukrainian International Airlines flight PS752, killing all 176 people on board.

    As tensions between the US and Iran have peaked, the EU has found it challenging to play a meaningful diplomatic role in the Middle East, despite the fact the region is located on its own doorstep. The Union’s response has been—as it often is when the EU is confronted with a crisis—haphazard and devoid of strategy.

    The EU has made little effort to speak in one voice. Following the American strike on Soleimani, EU leaders issued different and poorly coordinated statements. The first one to do so was European Council President Charles Michel, who emphasised that further escalation needs to be avoided ‘at all cost’. His statement was followed by additional reactions from High Representative Josep Borrell and the President of the new ‘geopolitical’ European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

    Confusion over who is really speaking for “Europe” was increased further by the separate diplomatic initiatives of France, Germany and the UK—the “E3” European signatories of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) on Iran’s nuclear programme. At the height of the standoff, France spoke to Iraq, Germany engaged Iran and the UK put the Royal Navy on standby in the Gulf. The E3 also released a separate joint statement to add to the pile of European reactions.

    As tensions between the US and Iran have peaked, the EU has found it challenging to play a meaningful diplomatic role in the Middle East, despite the fact the region is located on its own doorstep.

    The various European statements have two things in common. First, they emphasise the need to de-escalate tensions in the Middle East in order to avoid a spiral of violence. Second, they emphasise the need to preserve the JCPoA, which has been on life support ever since the US decision to withdraw from it in 2018. Yet, Europe doesn’t seem to be in a strong position to impact the former and the latter seems little more than a dead letter, especially after Iran announced that it would no longer abide by the JCPOA’s uranium enrichment limits.

    EU foreign ministers did discuss the situation in the Middle East in an extraordinary Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) meeting on 10 January and they mandated the High Representative to carry out diplomatic efforts with all parties to the standoff to contribute to the de-escalation of tensions. Beyond this, the outcomes of the FAC were meagre (i.e. call for de-escalation and restraint, rhetorical support for Iraq’s stability and the preservation of the JCPoA).

    The most significant European move took place on 14 January when the E3 triggered the JCPOA’s dispute resolution mechanism in order to bring Iran back into full compliance with the agreement. High Representative Borrell will oversee the dispute resolution process but the EU doesn’t seem to have an Iran strategy beyond the preservation of the JCPOA, which may well collapse entirely if the process fails and UN sanctions are re-imposed on Tehran.

    The causes of Europe’s strategy deficiency are multiple and would take an entire book to address sufficiently. However, it suffices to say here that the EU suffers from multiple problems. These include, inter alia, a leadership vacuum in foreign policy, difficulties in taking decisions that do not create positive win-win outcomes, an unwillingness to make political sacrifices in international affairs, and a lack of appetite for strategic thinking.

    None of these problems can be fixed with a single silver bullet such as expanding the use of Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) in EU foreign policy. This is because the Union’s problems are either structural in character or rooted in strategic culture, which means that they cannot be overcome by simply moving away from unanimity decision making in the Council.

    Yet, there are things the EU could do. The current practice in which the presidents of different EU institutions issue separate statements on major foreign policy events should stop. This is confusing to audiences both within and outside the EU who seek to understand the Union’s position on a given issue. Ideally, there should be a single joint statement by the President of the European Commission, the President of the European Council and the High Representative if a statement by the latter alone is considered insufficient.

    There should also be a permanent operational contact group consisting of the major European powers, which inevitably are expected to take charge in a crisis. It could take the form of a European Security Council, under the umbrella of which major European countries could coordinate their diplomatic activities. Such a structure could be based outside the EU to make it politically feasible to include post-Brexit UK as well.

    The current practice in which the presidents of different EU institutions issue separate statements on major foreign policy events should stop.

    Finally, there should be a permanent EU level strategy development process, which should lead to the adoption of a new European Security Strategy (ESS) every five years. At the moment, documents such as the 2016 EU Global Strategy (EUGS) are developed on ad hoc basis whenever the member states have an interest in them. This is why there was a 13-year gap between the 2003 ESS and the 2016 EUGS. A more formalised process would push the EU to think about what it wants to achieve on the world stage in regular intervals.

    These are small steps, but smalls steps are preferable to doing nothing. The risk is that Europe will continue to sink into further strategic irrelevance and that EU foreign policy will be reduced to empty slogans, hollow statements and photo opportunities.

    At a time when tensions in the Middle East remain high, when Russia continues to be assertive, when China’s rise is challenging the established international order, muddling through—Europe’s default foreign policy strategy—should be rejected as an option. Continuing to follow it would be detrimental to Europe’s ability to defend its interests as well as those of its partners.

    Niklas Nováky Brexit Crisis EU Institutions European Union Foreign Policy Middle East

    Niklas Nováky

    Iran-US standoff: A missed chance for the EU to speak with one voice


    15 Jan 2020

  • The leading Twitter hashtags on 3 January – the day Qasem Soleimani was killed by an American drone strike in broad daylight in front of Baghdad Airport – were #WorldWarIII and #FranzFerdinand – the latter not referring to the Scottish indie band, but to the murder of Austria’s heir presumptive that triggered World War I. Alas, 2020 is not 1914, Baghdad isn’t Sarajevo, and the one thing we can safely predict is that World War III is not about to break out. Which doesn’t mean everything is ok and we can safely go back to de-hibernation in rainy Brussels. And the disaster of the downed Ukrainian passenger plane demonstrates that there is no such thing as a conflict without tragic losses. But it means that Europe’s hyperventilation, even if shared by many US liberals in the solidly partisan biotope of Washington, should give way to a healthy dose of sobriety. I propose to take it in five steps.

    1. The big Middle Eastern War is not imminent

    If the price of crude oil, as a reaction to Soleimani’s killing – jumps up a mere 3 %, as it did last Friday, you know that Armageddon will have to wait, no matter what the Twittersphere says. That doesn’t mean the crisis is over. But the very measured missile strike without casualties against US bases in Iraq on 8 January, the tweets by Iranian leaders that they don’t want further escalation and also Trump’s non-escalatory statement after the missile strikes all speak for lowering tensions for the moment. In fact, while both sides of the conflict have no interest in letting this grow into a full-blown war, it’s the Iranian regime whose very existence is at stake in case the US and/or Israel take out the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ (IRGC) structure – of which they are very well capable. While full-blown war might jeopardise Trump’s re-election, in Iran it would put the whole system into question and likely end mullah rule.

    2. Soleimani’s killing has re-established deterrence against Iran

    Taking out the mastermind behind Iran’s export of terror in the Middle East and beyond, the engineer of the slaughter in Aleppo and elsewhere who is also responsible for the deaths of hundreds of US soldiers, may well go down in history as a textbook example of escalating to de-escalate. This, nota bene, after a couple of Iranian attacks that remained essentially unanswered by the US. The bombing of tankers in the Strait of Hormuz in spring 2019, the shooting down of a state-of-the-art US drone in June and the missile attacks against Saudi refineries in September come to mind. And remember, it was a good part of the American and European security community that began to worry that Trump is being too soft on Iran, especially after he called back planes and drones already in the air after the drone incident.

    Apparently, this week the Iranian military before the strike called up the Iraqi authorities, who then warned the US soldiers so they could get into shelters. Iranian leaders are tweeting very clearly that they want to avoid further escalation. Iraqi Shia leaders have issued calls to their faithful not to attack US troops for the moment. All these are signs that, for the first time in almost a year of direct aggression against the US, Iran is indeed standing down. Soleimani’s killing caused this.

    3. The killing has not weakened Iranian moderates

    First of all, don’t be deceived by Iranian TV pictures of millions of mourners in the streets of Iranian cities. Soleimani may have been a popular figure with some Iranians; but being the second most powerful leader and his IRGC the decisive pillar of the regime, he was certainly reviled by all dissenters – whose numbers have been growing, if anything, recently. Naturally, the regime spent all the carrots and sticks at the disposal of an authoritarian system to make people attend the rallies. And secondly, Iran’s moderate reaction this Wednesday can very well be read as a sign that the radicals, especially in the IRGC itself, are not calling the shots anymore, contrary to recent years.

    4. US forces are not being kicked out of Iraq

    That may still happen, and it would be detrimental to Iraqi democracy and especially the fight against ISIS, but Iraq’s non-binding parliamentary resolution of last weekend will not lead to an immediate withdrawal of US troops. Anti-ISIS operations have been halted; some US allies are withdrawing troops from Iraq, but this may very well not be the last word. It’s definitely too early to predict the end of the US presence in Iraq.

    5. It is Europe’s sacred mission to bring both sides back to reason – NOT!

    Non-European observers may be forgiven for thinking that Europe’s habitual calls on both sides to exercise utmost restraint, and defer from further escalation, have all the quaintness – and the effectiveness – of a Pottawatomi rain dance. Which doesn’t mean that de-escalation doesn’t happen (see above) but it certainly isn’t the result of Europe’s well-meant efforts to ‘bring both sides back to reason’, as German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas put it.

    Fortunately, the heads of government of the UK, France and Germany were slightly more sober, putting the blame squarely on the Iranian side and Soleimani personally before repeating the standard memes of EU Iran policy. Europe’s problem with this crisis, as generally with the Middle East, is twofold: First, the EU and its members don’t have the wherewithal to take on any serious diplomatic role because, without the necessary military resources (not only troops but also transport, intelligence and command & control), they cannot alone become a security provider which is essential in the region. And second, some important European actors (Germany, for example) have a huge problem with the very idea of deterrence. Deterrence meaning the ability and the willingness to escalate, in a precise and limited and targeted manner in specific situations, as it happened last Friday. As long as this is so, we can call for utmost restraint or try to save the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) until we’re blue in the face.

    Again: All this doesn’t mean that we’re heading for a peaceful future in the Middle East, or that the Soleimani killing was a brilliant, well-planned chess move by a stable genius in the White House. But it means that we Europeans have to rethink some time-honoured principles about security. Remaining pure vegetarians, we won’t survive in a jungle of carnivores.

    Roland Freudenstein Crisis EU Institutions Foreign Policy Middle East Security

    Roland Freudenstein

    After Soleimani: We Need to Talk About Deterrence in Europe


    10 Jan 2020

  • The Executive Board of the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies today approved the nomination of Professor Jamie Shea as its newest Senior Research Associate. Jamie Shea was an international public servant and a member of the International Staff of NATO for 38 years. He is a regular writer, lecturer and conference speaker on NATO and European security affairs and on public diplomacy, political communication and many other areas of contemporary international relations.

    “As the president of the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies, I would like to express how honoured and excited we are to have had three exceptional people with an impressive track record joining our ranks as senior research associates in recent months: Konstantinos Arvanitopoulos, former Minister of Education of the Republic of Greece; Jolyon Howorth, professor at Harvard University and a world-renowned expert on EU defence; and Jamie Shea, for many years NATO’s face and voice as spokesperson. The Martens Centre is a staunch believer in the need to develop an ambitious European Defence Union embedded in a strong transatlantic alliance. Konstantinos, Jolyon and Jamie will help us make a forceful and credible case for it,” said Mikuláš Dzurinda, president of the Martens Centre.

    Martens Centre Senior Research Associates are politically like-minded academics who provide quick expert advice on developing stories and current affairs. Through their research and analyses they also contribute to an improved reflection process and the strategic debates of the Centre. 

    For more information, you can contact Anna van Oeveren, Communications and Marketing Officer: avo@martenscentre.eu or +32 2 300 80 06. Photo source: NATO
    Defence Foreign Policy Security

    Martens Centre welcomes Jamie Shea as Senior Research Associate

    Other News

    08 May 2019

  • With global politics in turmoil, Russia and China have found each other. In 2018, the President of Russia Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping met one another five times. In the same year, Russia and China held their biggest shared military exercises for decades.

    Trade between the two nations increased by over 30% in 2018, and is expected to increase even more. They also seem to be finding synergies when it comes to dealing with the situations in Syria and Venezuela.

    China and Russia both have features that unite them. Both are blatantly autocratic, show a callous disregard for human rights, and share an openness to using military force in their neighbourhoods. They also share a great interest in pushing back the West’s influence in the world.

    Yet, despite these various areas of cooperation, the list of potential conflict points between the two powers is long. Despite the decade-long and successful efforts to ease the potential security conflicts between China and Russia, China’s increasing global ambitions are clashing with Russia’s interests.

    To start with, Russia considers the Arctic region its front yard. In 2018, China – self-identifying as a ‘Near-Arctic State’ – announced its official Arctic policy, promoting Beijing’s ambitions for the region, and raising Russian fears of a potential Chinese takeover of the polar zone through the creation of a ‘Polar Silk Road’.

    Despite efforts to ease the potential security conflicts between China and Russia, China’s increasing global ambitions are clashing with Russia’s interests.

    China’s Belt and Road Initiative also penetrates post-Soviet states in Russia’s backyard. While on the surface level the project underlines economic cooperation, it is clear that China will not make billions worth of investments without making sure that those investments are protected.

    As a consequence, China’s influence in Central Asia is increasing rapidly. In the long run, it is clear that the power balance will shift in China’s favour in Central Asia. This represents a major change for Russia.

    China has been careful not to encroach upon Russia’s security concerns in Central Asia, but at the same time Beijing is strengthening its role in counterterrorism initiatives with Central Asian states, and beefing up its security presence in countries like Tajikistan.  

    As China’s Belt and Road Initiative becomes more established, it could easily come into conflict with Russia’s interests in the Russia-managed Eurasian Economic Union. Conflicts of interest may also arise in setting out the future direction of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

    Over the past couple of years, European countries have become very concerned about the consequences of China’s increasing investments. The exact same thing is taking place in Russia’s far east.

    For example, Chinese capital now accounts for 45 percent of total foreign investment in the second most important regional city in Russia’s far East, Khabarovsk. Meanwhile Vladivostok, Russia’s far east capital, is also being transformed by Chinese investments.

    While this economic boost is being welcomed in this troubled Russian region, the daily deluge of tens of thousands of Chinese holidaymakers and investors has raised concerns among Russian nationalists, who suspect that this could be part of China’s strategic plot to reconquer its lost territories. Indeed, Vladivostok itself was once a part of China known as ‘Haishenwai’ in Chinese.

    Why is Russia not reacting to China’s expansion?

    Despite these numerous threats, why is Russia still choosing a close alliance with China in various areas? To start with, Russia believes it does not have much of a choice; Russia is a fraction of China’s size economically, and its population is just one tenth of China’s. In military terms, comparing active personnel and military equipment, Russia is not as far behind.

    Nevertheless, Russia can ill afford a military confrontation with China along its long land border, given that its military budget is only one third that of China’s. Russia also knows that China could scale up its military rather quickly if needed both in term of men and equipment because of its economic resources.

    Additionally, despite Russia’s nuclear advantage, it cannot employ the same scaremongering tactics with China as Putin does with the European population, due to the fact that in China the media is controlled.

    But the central reason for Russia’s approach is that while the Putin administration is focused on surviving the next few years, China, by contrast, is playing the long game. Putin’s main goal is to secure his immediate future, and in that regard cooperation with China is beneficial.

    While the Putin administration is focused on surviving the next few years, China, by contrast, is playing the long game.

    The likelihood that Putin manages to maintain his grip on power in Russia is high. Nevertheless, the economic situation in Russia is worsening, and increasing popular dissatisfaction is being expressed more openly. The result is growing difficulties for the Kremlin in maintaining the status quo, and controlling different regions and their elections has become more difficult as Putin’s hold on the Russian public loosens.

    Meanwhile, Putin has declared a de-facto war against the West and its set of values. The colour revolutions in Russia’s neighbourhood were interpreted by Putin as an advance of the West’s values, as well as an immediate personal threat. China might become a threat to Russia at some point, but not immediately, and not to Putin himself.

    No doubt Putin understands the long-term risks of China’s growing influence for Russia, but for Putin events in twenty- or thirty-years’ time seem to have less value. China, by contrast knows that Russia is a quickly declining power and it has the patience to wait both for Russia’s power to decay and its own to rise. No doubt Russia will snap out of its sleepwalk with China at some point, but by then it will already be too late.  

    Tomi Huhtanen Defence Economy Foreign Policy Macroeconomics

    Tomi Huhtanen

    Is Russia sleepwalking into Chinese dominance?


    15 Apr 2019

  • In the run up to February’s EU-Arab League summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, the EU was criticised by major media outlets such as the Financial Times for conducting high-level diplomacy with Middle East strongmen. By engaging in summitry with autocrats, it was argued that the EU is legitimising them and undermining its own value-based foreign policy. However, the premise of this argument is wrong.

    Over the last number of years, the EU has become more pragmatic in the way it conducts international affairs, most notably by showing a cautious willingness to define and pursue an interest-based foreign policy instead of one based mainly on values. This pragmatic turn was reflected in the 2016 Global Strategy, which called for an EU foreign policy based on ‘principled pragmatism’ and resilience building in the EU’s neighbourhood rather than democracy promotion.

    Resilience refers to the ability of a society to withstand both internal and external pressures to its stability. It became a Brussels buzzword following the triple shock of the Arab Spring, the Ukraine conflict and the Mediterranean migration crisis. These events made the EU realise that democracy promotion did not necessarily always translate into stability around its borders, which it needs to guard itself against phenomena such as uncontrolled migration, Islamic terrorism and hybrid warfare.

    Some see that this pragmatic turn in EU foreign policy undermines the Union’s ability to promote values and principles such as democracy, the rule of law, and human rights internationally. Furthermore, pragmatism or even realpolitik in EU foreign policy is seen to question the Union’s self-image as a postmodern normative power, a benign actor that uses the attractiveness of its norms and values to induce change in the world instead of hard power.

    However, the EU’s willingness to engage in summitry with a group of countries that Freedom House rates predominantly as “not free” is not in itself a negative phenomenon. Instead of undermining EU foreign policy, it suggests that the Union is slowly growing up strategically and distancing itself from a purely idealist way of dealing the world around it. This can be seen a positive development for three reasons.

    First, all international actors need to be concerned first and foremost about the security and prosperity of their own citizens, not value promotion beyond their territory. If the EU can accomplish this by engaging in summitry or deal making with unpleasant autocrats, without waiting until they become liberal democrats, then that is the prudent path to take.

    A good example of such pragmatism is the EU-Turkey deal in which the Union agreed to provide funds to Ankara in exchange for the latter’s help in stopping irregular migration across the Aegean. This might undermine the EU’s ability to project itself as a normative power, but the deal is in the best interests of its member states.

    Second, in its neighbourhood, the EU does not have the luxury of dealing only with “nice” regimes. Geography dictates that instability in countries with which the Union shares a land or maritime border will inevitably have ripple effects for the EU as well. This means that it cannot simply turn a blind eye to countries such as Egypt, Libya or Saudi Arabia, even though they are far from model democracies.

    Ignoring nasty regimes is easy when they are far away and strategically insignificant to one’s security, but not when they are on one’s doorstep and one needs them to take care of one’s interests.

    Third, value promotion has been a lowest common dominator EU foreign policy, not a strategic one. Given that EU foreign policy is conducted intergovernmentally, it is always a reflection of what the 28 member states can agree with each other. Quite often, they find it excruciatingly difficult to set common strategic objectives at the EU level, as the recent European cacophony over the political crisis in Venezuela again showed. However, it is relatively easy for them to support—at least rhetorically—the international promotion of the EU’s own values and principles.

    However, none of this is to say that the promotion of values and principles should not be an important element of EU foreign policy. It will continue to be so, not least because it is codified into the Lisbon Treaty as an objective of EU foreign policy. Furthermore, the Union should continue to promote its values and principles especially now given that great power competition is intensifying and the liberal international order is under unprecedented pressure.

    This is also why the EU needs to support the important work done by organisations such as the European Endowment for Democracy.

    The point is rather that value promotion should not be treated as the only or even the main goal of EU foreign policy. It is in nobody’s interest if the EU sees itself as a giant NGO that is more concerned about making the world outside its borders a better place than taking care of the security and prosperity of its citizens.

    For this reason and regardless of the optics of it, the Union’s willingness to talk to regimes that do not—to put it mildly—fully share its values and principles shows that it is taking modest steps to grow up strategically. This makes it a welcome development.

    Niklas Nováky European Union Foreign Policy Leadership

    Niklas Nováky

    The EU is growing up strategically


    14 Mar 2019

  • Superficially, one might frame Venezuela’s current drama as the classical conflict between a regional hegemon (in this case: the US) and a nearby country (Venezuela under Chavez/Maduro) whose government tries to escape the bully, seeking outside help (read: Russia) and promptly being confronted with a hegemon-sponsored insurrection (Guaidó).

    In other words, Ukraine in the Americas. That’s the picture that Kremlin media are painting, pointing once more at the alleged ‘hypocrisy’ of the West, unfortunately but predictably seconded by a ragtag coalition of European ‘progressives’, populists and self-appointed geo-strategists.

    In their eyes, what we are seeing is just another case of the jungle growing back over the remnants of the Western-dominated world order of the second half of the 20th century. In that vein, it would make sense for Europe to stay out, or limit its actions to the habitual appeal to both sides ‘to refrain from escalation and exercise utmost restraint’.

    What Venezuela has in common with Ukraine

    But nothing is further from the truth. There is a parallel between both cases, but it works exactly the other way around than self-appointed realpoliticians and progressive Kremlin appeasers would have it. Just like Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine in 2014, a systemically corrupt, kleptocratic leadership under first Hugo Chavez, then Nicolás Maduro, has ruined the country – albeit in Venezuela’s case even more dramatically than in Ukraine’s.

    In both cases, Putin’s Russia has been the protector of the corrupt regime, doing its best to help the local strongman to suppress any democratic opposition and trying to keep out Western support for the democrats who want nothing else than to restore a modicum of stability, regain prosperity and enhance the rule of law – again, this happened even more drastically in Caracas than in Kyiv.

    Putin’s game

    But as much as the Kremlin may be able to destabilise Ukraine through military aggression and try to prevent it from politically becoming part of the West, the question is: why does it cling to an apparently lost cause such as keeping Maduro in power in faraway Venezuela?

    There are several factors at play: first of all, Maduro’s reign may not be such a lost cause, at least in the immediate future. Assad’s rule in Syria seemed over by the summer of 2011. Eight years later, he is firmly back in power, thanks to a combined Russian and Iranian intervention.

    Although it is unlikely Russia or any other outside player would intervene in Venezuela as massively as that, it is very much in Putin’s interest to demonstrate that authoritarian rulers can be saved if they are friends with him. Allegedly, 400 private security personnel have already been sent by the Kremlin to Venezuela.

    Second, as the Kremlin thinks of the world in terms of spheres of influence, and of relations between Russia and the West in zero sum terms, it makes perfect sense for Putin and his entourage to not only defend his own ‘backyard’, but also attack the opponent’s.

    Third, every ‘saved’ autocrat across the globe helps the Kremlin to spin its narrative that authoritarianism is the wave of the future, and democracy (i.e. the West) is on the wane.

    Putin has this point in common with all other autocrats around the globe, of course, as well as the fourth point: the strict principle of non-intervention other than to save the incumbent government, no matter how illegitimate, and the total rejection of any Responsibility to Protect (R2P).

    To defend Russia’s substantial investments into Venezuela may be a fifth point: at a time when real incomes are falling in Russia itself, costly foreign adventures that bring no returns are increasingly hard to justify.

    Sixth, in Xi Jinping’s China Putin has a powerful ally – whose financial investments weigh even more heavily than Russia’s. Xi, although less keen than Putin for open confrontation with the West, nevertheless does subscribe to most of Putin’s points regarding a global effort to sustain autocrats.

    The delusion of realpolitik and the correct response of the West

    The West urgently needs to react to this, and demonstrate that solidarity against dictators can be stronger than the naked violence used by Maduro’s regime against its own people. Prolonging Maduro’s rule would not only be inhumane for the Venezuelans.

    It would also prolong a source of instability, mass migration and organized crime that Venezuela has become in recent years and that threatens the entire region.

    Support for Venezuela can range from political declarations to aid deliveries, to financial and other support for the opposition, to economic sanctions against the regime and ultimately – as a means of last resort – to military support or intervention. Especially the latter point is hotly debated, after the experience of the past 2 decades in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, but to take military intervention off the table from the very beginning is nonsense.

    The question is not whether ‘war is the solution’. The question is always whether we can come closer to any solution without the use of the military.

    Venezuela today, just as Ukraine in 2014, show that saving the incumbent government for the sake of international stability, if it has as consistently failed as here and begins to slaughter its own population, is neither realistic nor humane. It breeds catastrophe.

    Venezuela used to be a rich country for Latin American conditions; it has a middle class (in place or in exile) which is capable of returning stability, democracy and prosperity to this country. That is why Europe and the Americas jointly need to act now. 

    Roland Freudenstein Democracy Foreign Policy Human Rights

    Roland Freudenstein

    Venezuela’s Maidan moment – and why Realpolitik is against the interests of the West


    25 Feb 2019

  • When Donald J. Trump was elected US President in November 2016, some considered it necessary for Europe to start looking for new allies. As a result, some advocated for much stronger cooperation with China, especially in economic terms.

    Yet, positive expectations for the future development of Europe-China relations quickly morphed into concerns, mainly due to the massive scale of Chinese investments across Europe in all sectors. China has bought or invested in assets amounting to at least 318 billion dollars (272 billion euros) over the past 10 years.

    China has also expanded its cultural influence via the Confucius Institutes—a growing network of government affiliated educational organisations promoting Chinese language and culture—and by financing China studies and academic chairs in different European universities.

    Until now, Chinese influence has been seen by the public as less problematic than for example the influence of Russia. However, according to Thorsten Benner and Kristin Shi-Kupfter, China seeks to weaken western unity with Europe and across the Atlantic and pushes to create a positive global perception of China’s political and economic system as viable alternative to liberal democracies.

    The pressing question is, how will China use its influence in Europe while its economic power continues to grow? Is it a possibility that China will resort to more aggressive tactics?

    For us, the case of China’s relations with Australia and New Zealand, and the concerns those two countries have vis-à-vis Beijing, can give an indication of what might come. Compared to Europe, Australia’s and New Zealand’s relations with China are much deeper, richer in events and history.  Unfortunately, however, their relations with China have recently become characterised by ever deepening suspicion and concern.

    Australia’s concerns

    The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), the country’s domestic intelligence agency, wrote in its annual report to the Australian parliament that foreign governments are trying to extend their influence in Australian society, posing “a threat to our sovereignty, the integrity of our national institutions, and the exercise of our citizens rights.” In Australia and New Zealand, the Chinese government has gained influence in political systems, universities and media.

    A particular concern are businesspeople with links to Beijing who promote pro-China views and donate millions to labour and the liberals—the country’s two major political parties. An analysis by Melbourne Law School’s Dollars and Democracy database states that between 2000 and 2016, about 80% of foreign political donations to Australia’s parties came from China.

    ASIO identified at least AUS$ 6.7 million in donations to the two main political parties from two Chinese billionaires close to Beijing. Also, ASIO has identified 10 political candidates at various levels of government with strong ties to Beijing and the United Front.The United Front is part of China’s ‘soft power’ operation which President Xi Jinping has made one of the paramount objectives of his administration and is estimated to cost China between $10 and $12 billion annually.

    Chinese influence is also perceptible in universities and think-tanks. Mr. Huang Xiangmo, one of the billionaires who allegedly donated money to Australian politicians, helped fund a think-tank focused on China at University of Technology Sydney and he was chairman of the Australian Council for the Peaceful Reunification of China, an organisation backed by China’s United Front. He was also chairman of the Australian-China Relations Institute advisory board. He resigned when it was questioned by academics as to whether it was becoming a mouthpiece for the United Front, for Beijing’s propaganda.

    In addition, China’s state and security forces have reportedly engaged in a campaign to monitor Chinese nationals, including many students. Thus, ASIO is concerned about foreign interference in Australian Universities.

    As a result, new laws have been drafted in Australia, designed to restrict the potential influence of foreign governments and to enforce greater transparency, namely aimed at the Chinese government i.e. Chinese Communist party.

    New Zealand’s experience

    In New Zealand the developments have been very similar. Anne-Marie Brady from University of Canterbury, released a report which received a lot of publicity, describing with many examples how China has gained influence in the New Zealand’s society, such as political donations.

    Maybe the most media attention was given to a case in New Zealand in 2017, when a successful politician in foreign affairs, Mr. Jian Yang, was investigated for his background in Chinese military intelligence, which involved 15 years of training and work which he managed to conceal.

    For the US, China’s influence in New Zealand is a concern, especially with regards to Wellington’s reactions to China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. On 7 May this year, former US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton spoke in Auckland, warning of increasing Chinese influence.

    China’s future influence in Europe

    The level of concern in both Australia and New Zealand’s state institutions resembles the concern most Europeans have today for Russia. Also, despite the wide public debate in Australia and New Zealand about Chinese influence, China continues to use its tactics.

    Australia’s and New Zealand’s experience shows that better transparency is needed as it comes to foreign influence especially related to the core processes of European societies; elections and voting periods.

    China is growing its economic influence in Europe. Its economic power is not yet massive, but it is increasing rapidly. Europe consists of open societies like Australia which makes them easy to target, easy to penetrate.

    Which forms will China’s influence take when it really starts to gain economic power and leverage in Europe? China’s advancement of its interest and successful penetration of Australian and New Zealand societies might give us an answer. Chinese tactics in Europe may become more assertive, aiming for greater impact and so become cause for greater concern.

    Tomi Huhtanen EU Member States Foreign Policy Globalisation

    Tomi Huhtanen

    China’s rise in Europe: lessons learned from Australia and New Zealand


    01 Jun 2018

  • What a difference a year makes! Early in 2017, President Xi Jin Ping’s Davos speech about openness and sustainability seemed to herald a new China, globally responsible and therefore in many ways a potential strategic partner for Europe – especially when compared to Trump’s America which just seemed to have said goodbye to the West.

    But come 2018, global media’s biggest China stories are about Australian universities being bullied into firing staff for ‘insulting the feelings of Chinese students’, European investors complaining about intrusive Communist Party cells in their Chinese factories, EU direct investment in China actually decreasing recently, German counterintelligence warning about a broad offensive of Chinese spy agencies and, most ominously, the impending nationwide introduction in China of a Social Credit System which would make Big Brother green with envy.

    And this is not to mention the familiar stories about tightening controls of social media, crackdowns on Civil Society and foreign NGOs (aka ‘closing space’), and now perpetuating the authoritarian rule of one person (Xi) within the authoritarian rule of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC).

    The Economist had three China cover stories in four months – all with a critical spin: One about China’s questionable trade practices, one about the dangers of Xi Jin Ping’s new authoritarianism, and the last one about how China is spreading its ‘sharp power’ across the globe.

    There is no doubt that the rise (or re-emergence) of China is one of the great events of our time that will ‘echo down the ages’ as Mark Leonard said in his seminal ‘What Does China Think?’. But in the past year, the European debate about how advantageous the rapid power shift to Xi Jin Ping’s China is for us, has taken a healthy turn towards realism.

    Above everything else, Europeans, and indeed Westerners in general, will have to perceive this as an ideological challenge. Xi’s ‘Chinese model’ (brutally simplified: market economy minus democracy) is not only in direct competition to the Western model of combining economic and political freedom (the takeaway from 1989 to the 21st century, if you will).

    But 2017 was the year when it became abundantly clear that the Chinese model has mutated from a competing design to a threat in many ways, through a combination of military expansion, bullying neighbours, strategic investments (including ‘buying’ institutions and people) and political arm-twisting. Of course, such pearls of Western democracy as Trump or Brexit, or electoral successes of national populists across continental Europe are grist on the mills of the proponents of the one party state.

    But then again, as long as the one party state produces psychopathic mass murderers such as Kim Jong Un, there is no reason for an overdose of Western contrition. Neither are we powerless, nor is head-on confrontation the only alternative to total acquiescence. Instead, here are eight steps to a more solid response by the EU:

    • Putting things in perspective:  

    Of course, China is not – and will not be – the only show in town. Take a look at the much-hyped relevance of China to the EU’s foreign trade:  In 2016, Germany, the EU’s no. 1 economy, traded with China goods worth 170 billion Euros. But Germany’s combined trade volume with the V-4 countries (together about 65 million inhabitants) was 255 Billion Euros. China’s phenomenal economic growth notwithstanding, it still faces enormous challenges in social stability, corruption, the environment and private debt.

    • Maintaining unity in the EU:

    Even if it’s hard, we should strive for a more coherent answer to China’s ‘Belt and Road Initiative’, coordinating among member states. A joint strategy, or at least, best practice, vis-à-vis Chinese direct investment, would be a good idea. And the governments inside as well as outside the EU participating in China’s 16+1 initiative addressing cash-strapped former communist countries should at least be offered some analysis and intelligence about Chinese investment strategies in connectivity, especially in the digital field.

    • Working with our allies:

    Even Trump and Brexit have not changed the laws of gravity, nor the relative community of values and interest between Europe and North America. Confronting China on its authoritarian trade model (forced technology transfers, large state-owned enterprises, WTO rules manipulation) will be an excellent field of strategic coordination with a post-Brexit Britain and a US with checks and balances still intact. NATO is also a good framework to do so.

    • Compartmentalising relations:

    Cooperating with China where useful and possible, but by all means pushing back where necessary. While trade, fighting climate change and, in future, even defending parts of the global liberal order such as copyright law (as Chinese inventors become more defensive) may be good areas of strategic cooperation, China’s sharp power needs to be resisted, by means of our open societies as well as the rule of law and counter-intelligence.  

    • ​Learning Mandarin (or Cantonese, for that matter):

    The EU and its member states need to quickly and sustainably improve their expertise on China. That ranges from linguistic abilities to analytical capacities. It will be crucial that these efforts are financed from within Europe, and not by the Chinese government, universities or private investors.  

    • Institutional networking:

    Think tanks and experts analysing China (and not on a Chinese payroll) must cooperate more closely, and build sustainable networks to exchange information and analysis. The EU, as well as national governments and civil society, all have crucial roles to play here.

    • China mainstreaming:

    China should be factored into all strategic policy areas in Europe. Our pushback against Putin is an excellent example: The Chinese leadership is watching very closely how Russia fares with its territorial annexation and military aggression. There is a Chinese factor even in our sanctions policy towards the Kremlin. Whether energy, foreign investments, technology cooperation, relations with Africa (not only in the migration context), even defence policy: there is a Chinese angle to many EU policy fields, hence China must become part of our strategy in all of them.

    • Reaching out:

    To Taiwan, which is the living proof that democracy and the rule of law are very much compatible with Chinese culture, contrary to what the CPC would make us believe; to Hong Kong and its courageous democracy activists; to the growing Chinese expat community, and within China to regional and local partners who often genuinely desire more independent relations to Europe. As to China’s neighbours: Countries such as Japan, South Korea and Vietnam should become part of an informal network of intelligence exchange and strategic coordination.

    The West has seemed to be losing out already a couple of times in history. In the 1930s, communism and fascism looked like the wave of the future. In the late 1950s, with the Sputnik shock, the victory of the West in the Cold War looked less than sure, to put it mildly. The West has the ability – amazing to many and annoying to its detractors – of bouncing back when it’s least expected to. If 2017 was the year the Chinese dragon began to audibly growl, let 2018 become the year we developed a valid response!

    Roland Freudenstein Democracy Economy Foreign Policy Globalisation

    Roland Freudenstein

    Dancing with the Dragon: how the EU should respond to the Chinese challenge


    10 Jan 2018

  • European Allies are increasingly well positioned, in economic and fiscal terms, to opt to play a full role as NATO members in developing stronger defence capabilities. This is timely, given Russia’s resurgence and ongoing security challenges to Europe’s South.

    Europe is gradually adapting to a new normal, consisting of an assertive Russia, which challenges Western interests and values in both the East and the South, and ongoing threats from Islamist non-state actors across Northern Africa and the wider Middle East.

    Prior to 2014, in the aftermath of the Great Recession of 2009, NATO Allies had engaged in widespread cuts to defence spending. This was largely driven by fiscal policy pressures, as public debt and deficit levels rose strongly as a result of the 2008 financial crisis and of the subsequent Great Recession.

    The vast majority of European Allies are also EU Member States, and thus subject to obligations under EU law to maintain their public debt-to-GDP levels below 60% of GDP, and their annual fiscal balances, if in deficit, to no worse than 3% of GDP.

    In recent academic research[1], I defined an EU Member State’s fiscal capacity as the ability to increase total public spending while complying with the EU’s 60% rule for the public debt-to-GDP ratio.

    I then demonstrated that, over the 2008-2016 period, Allies had tended to increase defence spending more than others (or to at least decrease it less than others) if they had greater fiscal capacity.

    I also showed that Allies had tended to increase defence spending more than others if they were located closer to stationed or deployed military forces of the Russian Federation, and if they had a land border with the Russian Federation. Recent data illustrates the impact of these two factors on the extent to which Allies have increased their defence spending, in real terms, between 2014 and 2017, see Chart 1.

    Chart 1: Increases in defence spending (2014-2017) versus public debt ratios in 2014

    The largest increases have occurred in nations that both are closer to Russian forces and benefit from lower public debt-to-GDP ratios. Conversely, increases have been much more subdued – and in the cases of Belgium and Croatia even negative – among Allies who suffered from high public debt levels in 2014 and are geographically further removed from Russian military forces.

    A third effect is at play, namely how close individual Allies were to NATO’s 2% guideline in 2014. The UK, France, Greece, Estonia and Poland were either above or quite close to 2% in 2014, thus explaining their comparatively lower real increases in defence spending since that time. Increases are particularly large in Lithuania and Latvia, which had low levels of defence spending as a percentage of GDP in 2014.

    Prospects for a fulfilment of NATO’s Defence Investment Pledge?

    At NATO’s 2014 Summit in Wales, Allies had committed to either remain above 2% if already at that level or, for those that were not, to “aim to move towards the 2% guideline within a decade”. In light of the relationships that were documented above, what prospects do Allies have to respect their commitment, given likely economic and fiscal prospects?

    Focusing on the 17 NATO Allies that are also EU Member States and which, according to the latest estimates published by NATO, are expected to still be below the 2% guideline in 2017, one finds that there is good news overall. Based on the projections from the IMF’s World Economic Outlook, October 2017 edition, the public debt-to-GDP ratios of all 17 nations are projected to fall, as compared to their 2016 ratios, by 2022.

    By that year, 9 out of the 17 nations should be below 60%, as opposed to 7 today. The two nations that are expected to successfully cross below the 60% threshold are Germany and the Netherlands.

    Chart 2: Public debt-to-GDP ratios: 2016 (actual) and 2022 (projected)

    For the 9 nations that are projected to reach a public debt-to-GDP ratio of less than 60% by 2022, it should be particularly easy to raise defence spending up to 2% of GDP, as this could be achieved purely through higher deficit and debt levels, for which there is leeway. Such an approach would require no other sacrifices in fiscal and budgetary terms – neither any increases of the tax burden as a share of GDP, nor any compression of non-defence spending as a share of GDP.

    For those nations that are projected to still be above 60% of GDP by 2022, raising defence spending to 2% of GDP would still be possible, but this would require greater sacrifices, e.g. tax burden increases and/or compression of other public spending, if one assumes that these nations would simultaneously be seeking to reduce their public debt-to-GDP ratios by at least as much as the IMF projects.

    This is especially true for those Allies which have particularly high debt ratios and which are still far below the 2% guideline – namely Italy, Portugal, Belgium, and Spain.

    For these four nations, one could argue that both greater debt reduction efforts and greater defence spending efforts would be conducive to national security, and ultimately to Europe’s collective security. Overall, however, most European Allies face improving fiscal prospects and a greater margin of manoeuvre to reach the goals they committed to at the Wales Summit.

    Edward Hunter CHRISTIE is a Defence Economist at NATO. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of NATO or of Allied governments.
    [1] Edward Hunter Christie (2017): The Demand for Military Expenditure in Europe: The Role of Fiscal Space in the Context of a Resurgent Russia, Defence and Peace Economics, DOI: 10.1080/10242694.2017.1373542

    Edward Hunter Christie Defence European Union Foreign Policy

    Edward Hunter Christie

    Do European Allies have the economic and fiscal capacity to fulfill their NATO commitments?


    14 Nov 2017

  • Since 2015, the European Union (EU) has been discussing the idea of creating a European Security and Defence Union (ESDU). Although details are scarce, this means deepening cooperation between EU member states in the area of security and defence beyond what is currently done within the framework of the Union’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).

    ESDU: where we are so far

    The current discussion is driven by a recognition that the EU needs to do more in the area of security and defence. Three developments in particular have pushed ESDU to the top of the Union’s agenda. Firstly, its failure to deal with the 2011 Libya crisis and the 2014 Ukraine crisis without the United States (US).

    Secondly, the United Kingdom’s (UK’s) decision to leave the EU, or ‘Brexit’, which means that the Union will lose its strongest military power and the main obstacle for deeper defence cooperation.

    Thirdly, concerns about America’s willingness to defend its European allies under President Donald Trump in all circumstances.

    ESDU is not a new idea. It was first discussed during the Convention on the Future of Europe (CFE), which drafted the EU’s failed constitution in 2001-2003. During the CFE, France and Germany called for developing an ESDU on the grounds that ‘a Europe fully capable of taking action’ was not feasible without ‘enhancing its military capabilities’.

    The idea was also raised in April 2003 by France, Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg. At the time, however, ESDU did not gain steam because Atlanticist EU member states—notably the UK—saw it as an attempt to undermine the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Although the European Parliament (EP) brought up ESDU again in 2006, the idea remained more or less buried until 2015-2016.

    The current ESDU discussion differs from the 2002-2006 one because there is now much broader support for it. Since 2016, the European Commission, the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EP, the Council of the EU, and various EU member states have expressed support for the ESDU.

    The European People’s Party (EPP), which has been leading the debate on EU defence since 1992, called for an ESDU ‘worthy of that name’ in June 2015. Germany’s 2016 security policy white paper also mentioned that achieving ESDU is Berlin’s ‘long-term goal’.[1] Furthermore, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s 2017 State of the Union address stated that the EU needs ‘a fully-fledged European Defence Union’ by 2025.

    Practical implications

    Although the idea of ESDU is gaining momentum, the current discussion has included surprisingly few details on what it would mean in practice as most of what has been said in public is vague. The Commission’s June 2017 Reflection Paper on the Future of European Defence, for example, notes that an ESDU ‘will require joint decision-making and action, as well as greater financial solidarity at European level’; and that an ESDU ‘would be premised on the global strategic, economic and technological drivers, as well as a political push from European citizens for common European security and defence’.[2] This is hardly a blueprint.

    In all likelihood, ESDU will be a form of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) under articles 42(6) and 46 of the Treaty on EU (TEU). PESCO enables those member states ‘whose military capabilities fulfil higher criteria and which have made more binding commitments to one another in this area with a view to the most demanding missions’ to deepen their cooperation in the area security and defence beyond what some of their partners might be comfortable with.[3]

    Essentially, it would mean the creation of a defence ‘avant-garde’, ‘core group’, ‘pioneer group’ or ‘Eurozone’.

    If ESDU will be a “defence Eurozone”, what would be its “euro”? In other words, what would be the qualities that would distinguish ESDU members from non-members? The most detailed ESDU blueprint that the EU has so far produced has come from the EP.

    In a 2016 resolution, the Parliament expressed that an ESDU should, inter alia, offer guarantees and capabilities to EU member states beyond their individual ones, create a Council format for defence ministers, and turn the Subcommittee on Security and Defence (SEDE) into a full committee.[4] These are all good ideas, which should be implemented in their own right.

    A new blueprint

    However, such reforms are mainly about fine tuning the EU’s existing institutional structure. While this might improve the EU’s ability to respond to threats, they would not generate the types of capabilities that would be needed to protect European citizens and their territory.

    As the 2016 EPP Paper on Security and Defence states, this is the purpose of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). Given that it should also be the main purpose of ESDU, it should be created around two main deliverables that would boost the EU’s ‘defence’ dimension: (1) an unqualified mutual defence commitment, and (2) a military Schengen area.

    First, given that not all EU members are NATO members and therefore not under the protection of Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, ESDU participants should commit to defend each other in the event that one of them becomes subject to armed aggression through all means in their power, including military force.

    Although this sounds similar in tone to Article 42(7) of the Treaty on EU (TEU), the so-called mutual assistance clause, it is not. Article 42(7)’s mutual assistance commitment is rendered hollow by its second paragraph, which states that it ‘shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States’.[5] This means that the Article 42(2) can be interpreted in a highly subjective way. Thus, a genuine ESDU should include an unqualified mutual defence commitment.

    Second, in ESDU, there should be minimal to no obstacles to moving military forces and equipment from one state to another. At the moment, such movement is hindered by various bureaucratic requirements, such as passport checks at some border crossings.

    Furthermore, infrastructure problems, such as roads and bridges that cannot accommodate large military vehicles, create additional obstacles to the movement of military personnel and equipment in Europe. This is something that has also been called for by NATO, which means that it would also further boost EU-NATO cooperation.

    Where do we go from here? 

    ESDU should be created around an unqualified mutual defence commitment and a military Schengen area. These would form the core of the new defence core group, or the “euro” of a “defence Eurozone”.

    In addition, ESDU could include looser commitments, such as a commitment by the participating EU member states to invest a certain percentage of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in defence; and a commitment to improve the EU’s existing rapid response capabilities, particularly the battlegroups. However, given that such commitments could eventually be ignored, they should not form the backbone of an ESDU.

    [1] Germany, Federal Government, White Paper 2016 on German Security Policy and the Future of the Bundeswehr (19 September 2016), 73.

    [2] European Commission, Reflection Paper on the Future of European Defence, COM(2017) 315 (7 June 2017), 11, 14.

    [3] Art. 42(6), Treaty on European Union (TEU).

    [4] European Parliament, ‘European Parliament resolution of 22 November 2016 on the European Defence Union (2016/2052(INI))’.

    [5] Art. 42(7), TEU.

    Niklas Nováky Defence EU Institutions European Union Foreign Policy Security

    Niklas Nováky

    The European Security and Defence Union: how should it look like?


    30 Oct 2017

  • In the years to come, Europe will face many difficult challenges related to migration. To cope with the increased flows emanating from the African continent, present policies will have to be adapted and new ones created. The EU must pursue a course that protects the integrity of free movement, secures the external borders and enables it to work with stakeholders, both in Africa and elsewhere, to avoid an unchecked influx of migrants.

    The article reviews important elements of the debate that has been taking place in the EU in recent years and shows that a new basis for the European Migration and Asylum Policy is needed to ensure that it has a more realistic chance of success. It argues that there is a need for a review of EU policies on migration and asylum, and for the development of more useful tools to disentangle the complex web of interests which today is ever present in the debate on the European Migration and Asylum Policy.

    Read the full article in the December 2017 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Tobias Billström Foreign Policy Migration North Africa

    Tobias Billström

    The end and the beginning: the EU, Africa and the need for a new migration regime


    30 Oct 2017

  • In mid-September, together with former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, chairperson of the Committee on Foreign Affairs at the German Bundestag Marieluis Beck, and former US Ambassador to NATO Alexander Versbow, I visited Toretsk, the so-called contact line in South-Eastern Ukraine. It is a line separating Ukrainian territory controlled by Ukraine from Ukrainian territory that Ukraine does not control.

    We were brought to the Dnepropetrovsk airport from Toretsk by a Ukrainian military helicopter. When we descended from the helicopter, its captain asked Rasmussen to patiently listen to him for two minutes. The captain said to the former General Secretary of NATO and current advisor to President Poroshenko something along these lines: “Mr Rasmussen, I fulfilled the duty assigned to me. I safely transported you and your friends from point A to point B. But you arrived in point A 15 minutes late. This was very bad, because it made our big helicopter exposed to the attention of the enemy for 15 minutes. In a similar situation, I recently lost a group of soldiers who were shot down by the enemy because of the delayed take-off.”

    It was only then that I understood why, after the helicopter got off the ground, its captain made several manoeuvres to change the flight direction and why for about 10 minutes we flew so close to the ground that we almost touched it. “But now comes the most important part,” continued the captain, “I know you are advisor to President Poroshenko. Show him this photo – the picture showed the captain with President Poroshenko during one of the President’s visits to Eastern Ukraine – and tell him that I am the soldier who was the first and the only one to speak up during critical moments on Maidan square, wearing the uniform of a member of Ukrainian Armed Forces, and I publicly urged the Ukrainian military not to intervene against the demonstrators. I am 53 now. I risked everything, my family, my work. I believed then and I still believe in democratic changes in our country. But please tell the President, because I cannot get near him, that if he does not do away with corruption, we will lose the war with Russia and we will lose our country. I earned 5 euros today for my service to you. But I’m not complaining. I did not do it for money. I did it because Ukraine needs your help, it needs the solidarity of the entire democratic world. I still believe that Maidan had and continues to have a meaning. But our President must take a strong stance on corruption.”

    I decided to share this experience with the public. At home in Slovakia, in Ukraine and in Brussels. Because the future, and not only that of Ukraine, lies with people like the captain of our helicopter.

    Mikuláš Dzurinda Democracy Foreign Policy Ukraine Values

    Mikuláš Dzurinda

    Why Poroshenko must take a strong stance on corruption

    Blog - Ukraine

    19 Sep 2017

  • I guess it’s clear now that Trump and Putin will indeed get along, much as I had predicted immediately after the U.S. Presidential election last November. The personal meeting between the two strongmen had played a groundbreaking role here, as was discussed at the Martens Centre panel on transatlantic relations at the EPP Congress in Malta in March.

    Beyond any doubt, Vladimir Putin is the net winner so far, because he hasn’t had to make any concessions during the meeting. However, Donald Trump indeed made some. First, he kept key realist professionals out of the room (H.R. McMaster, Fiona Hill), and he was joined only by Rex Tillerson, perhaps the most comfortable figure for Putin out of all current U.S. foreign policy decision-makers.

    Second, whatever the talk was about Putin’s cyber-intrusion into U.S. affairs (parties issue contradictory statements), one thing is clear: the issue hasn’t really gone anywhere and parties quickly moved on to other issues of the day.

    Third, Trump didn’t want to hold Putin accountable on his past behaviour – aggression against neighbours, interference in affairs of Western democracies, attacks on the liberal world order, crackdowns on human rights in Russia. Instead, “there was not a lot of litigating the past”, as Rex Tillerson told the media.

    Let’s be clear: there’s only one beneficiary of this sort of “move on” attitude – Putin. He wants to default on his past sins and be accepted as a normal guy by Western leaders again. Trump made a huge step in that direction in Hamburg.

    But more importantly is the question – what comes next? Technically, I’m convinced that they agreed to hold a fully-fledged bilateral summit at some time soon, but just don’t want to announce it now, to allow flexibility. On the substantial part – few things.

    First: much will depend on whether the professionals (H.R. McMaster, Fiona Hill, Kurt Volker) will return to have a say in crafting out future U.S. policy on Russia, or whether everything will continue in a napkin-drawn impromptu mode. The latter is a dangerous option: Putin is tricky and has great skill in selling his side of the story to unprepared and inexperienced people. Many reasonable people whom I know often left Putin’s office with his worldview.

    Second: without doubt, Putin now sees Trump not as much as a tool for lifting sanctions against Russia (he sees the difficulties with that, bearing in mind what happens now on the Hill), but rather as a tool to sow further confusion and distrust in Transatlantic relations.

    Putin is happy to hear Trump’s bashing of U.S. NATO allies for not spending enough on defence, as well as his other public attacks on the leaders of major Western democracies. It’s obvious that both leaders don’t like Angela Merkel very much, I’m sure part of their dialogue either was, or will be, focused on how to bypass her in important decision-making on major global affairs.

    This leads us to the major third point. In the grave current geopolitical crises – Syria, the Korean Peninsula, and the Saudi-Iranian standoff – a United Europe, the key remaining pillar of Western democracy, is often dangerously absent. Trump is working to solve most of these crises together with a bunch of autocratic leaders – and Putin perfectly fits into that profile.

    Why treat him so much differently? Technically, there’s still a lot more freedom in Russia than in China or Saudi Arabia (and Turkey is rapidly moving towards the same direction). So, we’re back into some sort of replica of the XIX century reality now – it looks like major international issues are set to be resolved through a number of “deals” between Trump and some autocrats.

    Europe, as the major hope and leading force of the free democratic world at a time when the United States has taken (temporary?) leave from that role, should step up and increase its role in important affairs of the world, if we do not want to rely on the unpredictability of Trump. For President Trump, shaping the new world order through a series of deals with autocratic strongmen seems to be a temptation that’s too hard to resist.

    He likes doing deals that way – we saw that in Riyadh, and now in Hamburg. But that’s a dangerous road for the future of the democratic world order, and the only way to defend it right now is if Europe amplifies its voice in global affairs. If not, we’ll be rapidly sliding into the XIX century politics, a glimpse of which we saw in Hamburg during the meeting between Putin and Trump.

    Vladimir Milov EU-Russia Foreign Policy Transatlantic

    Vladimir Milov

    The Trump-Putin deal gets real


    13 Jul 2017

  • The EU is facing an unprecedented challenge on its southern borders in terms of instability in the region and increased migration flows. In its search for a solution that will meet with the approval of all member states, there is a new momentum for strengthening cooperation with neighbouring countries.

    The EU is increasingly turning to third countries to manage migration flows and reduce the number of irregular migrants arriving in Europe. Nevertheless, there are serious constraints on its ambition. The EU has failed to offer its cooperation partners real incentives, while member states have been reluctant to coordinate their initiatives and become involved, thus undermining EU action beyond its borders.

    The result is slow progress and uncertain partnerships. It is time to address these limitations and make the EU a reliable and coherent regional actor, able to speak with one voice when addressing third countries on migration. This calls for stronger foreign policy on migration at the EU level, the deployment of a wide range of tools and incentives, and more committed member-state support for EU action.

    Read the full article in the June 2017 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Loredana Teodorescu Foreign Policy Immigration Migration Neighbourhood Policy Security

    Loredana Teodorescu

    Ambition versus reality: partnering with our neighbours on migration


    04 Jul 2017

  • President Trump’s foreign policy remains paradoxical and as yet highly uncertain. European leaders face the challenge of communicating both their interests and values in ways that the new president will welcome. Thus far, practical discussion combined with a personal connection seems the likeliest path to success. Ultimately, the EU has the opportunity not only to partner with the US but to lead the way forward based on the EU’s own fundamental commitments and values. Three important areas this could affect are security and defence, climate change policy and global trade.

    Read the full article in the June 2017 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Nathan Shepura Environment EU-US Foreign Policy Leadership Transatlantic

    Nathan Shepura

    Ledgers, anecdotes and leadership: guidelines for partnering with the new US president


    22 Jun 2017

  • China first became an active and visible player in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) in the 1950s, when it worked together with the region to stop a possible Soviet invasion of Poland in October 1956. This strong relationship was later dismantled due to the Sino-Soviet split and the volatile domestic situation in China (the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution).

    It is only since 2012 that China has become active in the region again, now as an emerging global power with a strategy and new investment initiatives in play: first the 16 + 1 framework and now the Belt and Road Initiative as well. Does China consider the CEE countries to be its new playground, or test area, within the EU? Or does it instead see the region as a gatekeeper that can help it get a foot in the door to the West?

    China has a vision, a pragmatic approach and political will, but the implementation of this vision has been weak. While several existing mechanisms offer new potential, they have so far only been partially exploited, due to the different business mentalities of both sides, as well as many other obstacles. China is opening up opportunities for CEE, but the latter must be better prepared for China’s new activities.

    Read the full article in the June 2017 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Bogdan Góralczyk EU Member States European Union Foreign Policy Globalisation

    Bogdan Góralczyk

    China’s interests in Central and Eastern Europe: enter the dragon


    27 May 2017

  • On 25 May, President Trump will come to Brussels, on the last leg of his first trip abroad.

    If anyone takes offense at Europe coming in line after Saudi Arabia and Israel on this trip, then talking to Trump might be a waste of time.  You will be better off among the demonstrators with their whistles, #resist hashtags and “Impeachment!” placards. But if the heads of government of EU and European NATO members want to get anything positive out of the meeting this week, they might want to keep in mind a few do’s and don’ts:

    1. Trump is here to stay. Don’t get sidetracked by the Washington sitcom around the Kremlin connection and its diverse spinoffs. First of all, impeachment is not around the corner. And second, even if it were, this administration will remain with us for a whole four years: snap elections are not part of America’s political system.
    2. Focus on the concrete. Don’t lecture the President on the history, principles or values of European integration. That doesn’t mean Europe’s leaders should forget about their identity or hide what they stand for. But that they should count on a President and administration interested in pragmatic progress and with little interest in theory.
    3. Europhobia is an exception. Don’t take some US conservatives’ criticism of European integration as the new normal. Frustration over a perceived lack of European burden sharing on defence and security is as old as the alliance. Similarly, the exasperation over the ping pong game between Brussels and the national capitals – as encapsulated in Kissinger’s question about which phone number to call for Europe’s position. Keep in mind that while Trump has some advisors openly opposed to the EU, the vast majority of his key people in the White House and elsewhere recognise the value of the EU even if they find dealing with it to be overly complicated and annoying.  
    4. Work on united EU positions. But keep in mind that Americans note how European leaders don’t always convey a common message when they communicate through their Embassies in Washington. When Trump or his advisors try to discuss EU policies with individual European counterparts, they aren’t necessarily trying to weaken the EU; they want to achieve fast results by working with the countries they deem more influential than others in Europe. Hence, as long as EU member states don’t devolve all their powers to Brussels, some of them will have to speak for the whole Union sometimes. Such is life.
    5. Find the common interests. The last, but most important point: do make constructive proposals that are in the interest of both Europe and the US. Besides serious commitments to improved defence efforts which have already been widely discussed, here are a few ideas:
    • NATO: Visibly increase military spending, but even more importantly, improve pooling and sharing among European forces within NATO. Accelerate NATO reform, with more concrete commitments to the South. However, one should keep in mind Turkey’s nuisance value in blocking NATO projects in the Middle East.
    • Russia: Europeans and Americans need to stay close on managing sanctions and other matters related to Russia.  Trump is no longer enthralled with Putin; hence, European leaders need to exploit the rapid end of this Administration’s originally planned “reset”.  But, that also means that Europe has to have a united position towards Russia.
    • Syria: Trump was sincerely shocked by Assad’s gas attack, and he launched the  counter-strike despite opposition from the  ‘America First’ crowd in his Administration. He will certainly be open to concrete ideas that address the humanitarian issues in the civil war. Joint military and civilian operations to establish safe zones for refugees from the killing fields in Syria, (also Yemen and Libya), difficult as they may be, will be a good start. Joint initiatives to save Christians and other religious minorities also come to mind.
    • Turkey: How can the US and Europe work together with a NATO ally that is increasingly moving away from the West? Trump will be open to a common transatlantic attempt to define red lines, but also incentives, vis-à-vis Turkey.
    • China: Managing an aggressive China that is also a major economic partner of both the US and EU is a major challenge.  Trump is focused on North Korea and trade imbalances.  European ideas on multilateral pressure on Chinese advances in the South China Sea will be welcome.
    • Brexit:  Trump has a known bias in favor of the UK in the Brexit process.  But many corporate leaders keep repeating that a smooth and constructive Brexit would be good for American interests.  Trump may like the idea of Brexit but he doesn’t want American companies and investors to be hurt. Europeans would diffuse a lot of US concerns if they agreed to consult on those issues involved in Brexit that have direct implications for the US.
    • Trade:  While some of Trump’s advisors may hold very simplistic views on the transatlantic trade balance, others believe that a trade war should definitely be avoided. This view is shared by the business community. Hence, in the footsteps of the moribund TTIP, and building on positions already agreed in that process, European leaders should propose a Transatlantic New Deal that takes into account people’s fears about losing out to globalisation, and that more visibly strengthens the position of small and medium enterprises.
    • Intelligence: First, in general, Europeans have to become more pragmatic on intelligence sharing and (especially in Germany’s case) show more appreciation. Secondly, and more specifically: One of the things that could be damaged by Brexit is transatlantic intelligence cooperation. Europeans should have ideas in mind of what they want and what they will give in return.
    • European Defence Cooperation:  EU leaders should expect the President to applaud European efforts.  But they ought to be careful not to promise what they can’t deliver in the short run. Trump may still be looking for reasons to shift American power to Asia. Above all: the EU should work on its intervention capacity while military defence against conventional attack should remain a NATO matter. Of course, strengthening the European pillar within NATO will be welcome in Washington.
    Craig Kennedy Roland Freudenstein EU-US Foreign Policy Transatlantic

    Craig Kennedy

    Roland Freudenstein

    Trump visit: 5 things Europe’s leaders should do – and not do – this week


    22 May 2017

  • Donald Trump has repeatedly chastened European NATO members for spending less than 2% of their GDP on defence. In spite of recent reassuring declarations, his commitment to NATO has seemed wavering, and he displayed a readiness to coordinate with Russia in the Middle East.

    Should the Trump administration reach a similar understanding with the Kremlin on Eastern Europe, the Europeans will shed tears of regret for not having followed his advice and invested in their defensive capabilities earlier.

    Russia’s aggression in Georgia and Ukraine leaves little doubt as to the real unwillingness of the Kremlin to respect the sovereignty of the former soviet republics. And the Baltic States are next on the firing line. Urgent actions are needed in this field.

    First, defence spending needs to be increased. West Europeans have relied upon the USA since the 1940s for their own security, de facto freeriding on US taxpayers in this field. With 23 European NATO members below the 2% threshold in defence spending, it is clear that Europeans have overlooked their national security for too long.

    The time has now come for them to invest more on it. All of the European NATO member states increasing their defence spending to 2% of their GDP will send a powerful message to the Kremlin that they are serious about protecting Europe’s security and independence.

    Russia’s aggression in Georgia and Ukraine leaves little doubt as to the real unwillingness of the Kremlin to respect the sovereignty of the former soviet republics. 

    Second, European battlegroups need to complement NATO troops in the Baltic States. Increasing defence budgets does not instantly create a safer security environment. In a 2016 report, RAND made clear that the current national defence forces of the Baltic States and the NATO units stationed there are insufficient to hold off the neighbouring Russian forces, should the latter decide to invade. Germany and other NATO members have since contributed to forming battlegroups in the Baltic States and Poland.

    However, the size of NATO’s battlegroups is negligible compared to that of the Russian forces they face. Establishing permanent European battlegroups of significant size, with the necessary equipment to deter Russian aggression, would reduce the EU’s vulnerability in the east, and perhaps lead to an improvement in its relations with Russia, as the Kremlin will have to accept that it cannot encroach upon its European neighbours’ territory.

    According to the RAND report, this would cost around $2.7 billion, which is far less than what would become available if countries reached the 2% threshold in defence spending.

    Third, the supply of military hardware for the battlegroups needs to be homogenised. Each member state using unique military equipment takes away the option of lending that hardware to one another. Lending military hardware contributes to cutting down the costs of transferring it, and it is an invaluable asset, as troops in warzones could use leased equipment right away.

    For example, Greek F-16 and Mirage 2000 pilots, being experts in intercepting Turkish military aircraft violating Greek airspace, could assist in the protection of the Baltic States’ airspace using allied jets of the same type. Creating defence equipment homogeneity requires political will. So far the EU has been unsuccessful in creating military interoperability. Nonetheless, this should become a priority in order to secure European borders.

    Europeans need to direct their militaries into defending the entire EU, and not just individual European states.

    The President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Junker, has repeatedly spoken in favour of establishing a single European defence force. That currently being unfeasible, the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) needs to be focused on the creation of battlegroups in member-states under threat.

    Assuming that all NATO member states reach the 2% objective of defence spending over GDP that would still not deter Russia from being aggressive towards its neighbours. The fact that the European NATO member states spend on defence five times the Russian defence budget, and remain unable to secure Eastern Europe is embarrassing.

    Europeans need to direct their militaries into defending the entire EU, and not just individual European states. After the end of the Napoleonic Wars the German states were facing similar threats to their existence by France and Russia. The Germans established the Federal Army to defend themselves, which was a collection of the armed forces of the member states of the German Confederation.

    The EU could imitate this model in the near future, while bearing in mind that the Federal Army fell apart in 1866 due to the lack in commitment of several of its members. Thus, even more ambition may be needed in the long run. 

    Konstantinos Lentakis Defence EU Member States Foreign Policy Leadership Security

    Konstantinos Lentakis

    Beyond 2%: establishing a true European defence force


    10 May 2017

  • On April 16, Turkish voters will decide if President Erdogan will maintain the presidential powers he has held in practice since instituting a state of emergency after the failed coup attempt in July 2016. The new constitutional amendment will centralize his power, giving massive authority over legislature and judiciary without a proper checks and balances system. Though NATO and Europe have dealt with autocratic leaders in member states before, the situation with Turkey’s leadership is setting the conditions for a serious security risk to the Alliance.

    United by Values?

    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg continually reiterates the core principles outlined by signatories of the Washington Treaty: “Democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of the media, independence of the judiciary, protection of minorities. These are the values that unite us. They are the values NATO has defended since its foundation in 1949.”

    But are these values truly upheld by all Allies? Despite the Turkish government’s promise to foster democratic principles in the last decade, Turkey has drifted sharply away from these values under the rule of President Erdogan. Contrary to Ataturk’s secular Turkey, Erdogan’s government is far from being a bridge between East and West. His new regime is using religion as a political tool to consolidate his internal power and project his authority abroad.

    Under his rule, freedom of expression has been eliminated through intimidation, and violation of basic human rights is not a rare phenomenon. As a member nation, Turkey is capable of blocking the decisions on defending critical values — as already evidenced by Turkey’s refusal to allow military training with NATO partner nations due to the political tensions with Austria.

    Heightened political tensions between the Turkish government and its NATO Allies are initial indications of the potential future security crisis for Europe. By exploiting this tense situation, the Turkish government has created propaganda material against the West, even going as far as to explicitly threaten European countries to not feel safe in their homelands if the diplomatic row continues.

    Erdogan’s attempts to mobilize the considerable Turkish diaspora in Europe with strong rhetoric should not be taken lightly. If Erdogan attains his goals via referendum, he will completely dismantle the foundation of the Turkish secular republic. Thus, post-referendum Turkey would no longer be a true ally but rather an unpredictable one.

    Turkey Turns East

    Once backed by NATO against Russia during the downed jet crisis in November 2015, the Turkish government initiated the normalization of highly-tensioned relations with Russia after the failed coup attempt in Turkey.

    The new partners, Russia and Turkey, have held positive discussions on Syria, on the construction of a nuclear power plant, and likely sale of Russian S-400 long-range air and missile defence system. Additionally, Turkey’s appointment by Russia and China to chair the 2017 Energy Club of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was a significant indication of her divergence from the West. And in the most concerning move toward the East, Turkey signed an intelligence sharing agreement with Russia.

    Although European institutions typically analyse this rapprochement as a tactical manoeuvre before the referendum, it seems to have already started providing strategic outcomes.

    The methods Erdogan has used against Europe are evolving to be similar to those used by President Putin. Turkey, though, has an additional tool of leverage that can be traced within the Turkish diaspora in Europe. The revealed ill-favoured intelligence activities of Turkish government among the Turkish origin European citizens is similar to Russian intelligence activities in Ukraine.

    State-sponsored AK Trolls operate in social media channels very similarly to Putin’s Kremlin Troll Army. Such integration between Russia and Turkey would certainly be a worrying development for NATO’s cohesion.

    Seeking Alternatives

    The EU-Turkey Refugee Deal, as well as the country’s geostrategic location are important points of leverage for President Erdogan. In the fight against ISIS, for example, the West is leaning on Turkey to provide staging areas for equipment and aircraft, and seeks agreement on opposition targets. Particularly for countering the threats and risks emanating from the South, it is important that the cooperation and partnership with Turkey remains solid.

    However, there is no doubt that Erdogan’s new Turkey will not maintain a foundation for a feasible alliance with Europe. It is worth remembering that many in the Turkish public are also looking for alternatives to Erdogan’s regime. Current public opinion polls show that around 50 percent of Turkish voters who do not support the constitutional change seem extremely oppressed by fear.

    As indications of Turkish deviation from the West are growing each day, Europe needs to set priorities for mitigating this risk. Otherwise, Erdogan’s Turkey will likely turn from a NATO ally to a source of instability for the entire region. 

    Fatih Yilmaz Democracy Elections Foreign Policy Leadership Security

    Fatih Yilmaz

    NATO ally or insider threat? How Turkey’s referendum vote will affect European security


    11 Apr 2017

  • The rapid deterioration of relations between European governments and Turkey in recent weeks may come to be seen as a watershed in EU-Turkey relations. The leader of a NATO ally and EU accession candidate country did not hesitate to exploit the vulnerability of European leaderships ahead of crucial electoral battles by mobilizing thousands of people in the heart of Europe.

    Given also his role in the refugee issue, his authoritarianism, and his fickle personality, it is time for the EU to start viewing Erdogan’s Turkey as nothing less than a long-term security risk.

    In the last few years Europe has seen security threats multiplying. The annexation of Crimea heightened anxieties about Russian aggression. Russia also has other levers of pressure, including energy resources, cyber-warfare and, most recently, a multifaceted project of disruption of Western democracies, ranging from support for populist parties to disinformation campaigns. Then, a series of terrorist attacks in 2015 and 2016 revealed the extent of the jihadist threat.

    All these are clearly major threats for Europe, covering a broad range of security challenges: geopolitical and ideological, global and regional, internal and external. But if there is one actor that embodies all these different dimensions of risk at the same time – geopolitical pressure, internal subversion, democratic disruption, and an increasingly erratic behavior of its leadership – it is Turkey.

    It is time for the EU to start viewing Erdogan’s Turkey as nothing less than a long-term security risk.

    Turkey has always been a crucial strategic partner of the West, but the refugee crisis of 2015 severely upset the power relationship between Turkey and the EU, punctuated by Turkey’s desire to accede to the Union. Not unlike Russia with its gas, Turkey found itself controlling the flow of a critical commodity – refugees.

    Not unlike Russia, it saw this as an opportunity to extort benefits from the EU, which it promptly did by forcing upon the EU a deal in which it gained various concessions in return for curbing the refugee flows into Europe.

    This process took place in parallel with increasing authoritarianism and concentration of power in the hands of President Erdogan internally. After the failed coup of the summer of 2016, Erdogan engaged in sweeping purges of the Turkish state and society.

    If his intended constitutional reform goes through in April, Turkey will differ very little from Putin’s Russia, a personal semi-authoritarian nationalist regime with populist overtones, where the main legitimating mechanism of a deeply entrenched leadership is antagonism of the West.

    Events of the last few weeks have added a new layer to the difficult geopolitical relationship between Europe and Turkey. The massive rallies in favour of Erdogan in Austria, Germany, Holland and France have highlighted that, while Europeans were agonizing over the compatibility of Islam with liberal democracy, they long underestimated Turkish nationalism – an ideology as sticky and potent as any religion – as an obstacle to the integration of thousands of citizens of immigrant descent.

    If his intended constitutional reform goes through in April, Turkey will differ very little from Putin’s Russia. 

    The difficult relationship between Turkish immigrants and their host countries is nothing new of course, but only now has a leader in Turkey shown the intention (and ability) to use these populations as levers of pressure on European governments and to settle domestic scores.

    Despite his effort to disrupt European democracy through trolls and hackers, Putin could only dream of commanding the kind of street power in European capitals that Erdogan enjoys.

    Erdogan embodies today the sum of all that urope fears: an authoritarian and populist leader (like Putin), with the capacity to strong-arm European leaders thanks to his key position in the refugee problem (akin to Putin and energy), and now with the expressed ambition to use diasporas as a weapon of foreign and domestic policy, disrupting electoral processes and fracturing societies in Europe (thus playing a role akin to that of radical Islamism) and crashing opposition at home.

    Instead of an ally, or even a difficult partner, the EU must start viewing Erdogan’s Turkey as a multidimensional security risk.

    The current standoff with the Netherlands will probably cool off after the Dutch and the Turkish electoral campaigns are over. But with elections in Germany looming, Erdogan will surely be tempted to employ his hybrid (internal and external) geopolitical arsenal again.

    The EU is dealing with a leader who understands his relationship with Europe not simply in transactional terms, but as an opportunity for extortion in every available facet.

    Instead of an ally, or even a difficult partner, the EU must start viewing Erdogan’s Turkey as a multidimensional security risk. Breaking off relations completely of course is not an option, but a serious discussion on a strategic approach to Turkey must now start. This must include a thorough appreciation of how Turkey can challenge European security and democracy internally and externally.

    As a multidimensional security risk Turkey requires a holistic approach, including both internal (e.g. addressing the lagging integration of immigrants of Turkish descent in European societies) and external (e.g. effectively securing European) defense.

    The EU must remain alert about opportunities to engage Turkey diplomatically. But it must be ready to face up to extortion or internal disruption as well.

    Perhaps nothing would work better to rebalance the EU-Turkey relationship than challenging Erdogan on his own turf. As the regime in Turkey is rapidly losing all vestiges of a functional democracy, and given the lack of genuine democratic opposition (opposition parties in Turkey are either secular-nationalist or ethnic-sectarian), the EU must engage in serious bottom-up democracy promotion in Turkey, helping to foster a real liberal democratic culture in Turkish society.

    If Erdogan thinks he can turn European societies into a battleground of the EU-Turkey relationship, the EU must answer in kind. Europeans must make the emergence of a genuine Turkish democracy the key strategic goal of their policy towards Turkey, and must be ready to invest resources and time to ensure this outcome comes to fruition.  

    Angelos Chryssogelos Elections Foreign Policy Leadership Security Values

    Angelos Chryssogelos

    Erdogan: an EU security risk?


    16 Mar 2017

  • In these heady days of the early Trump era, one may be forgiven for thinking that for Europe, none of the old certainties hold true anymore. Consequently, to many European pundits, it is obvious that whether we want it or not, we are forced to rethink our strategic posture from scratch. Some advise that we now have to become self-sufficient in security – because the new US President has, at least in interviews and tweets, sown doubt about the 70 year old US security commitment to Europe.

    Some have argued that we should kiss and make up with Russia because under Trump, the US risk to overtake us in the race of who’ll be Putin’s darling – at least until recently. And some claim that the best thing we can do now is to replace the US by China as a strategic partner, because they seem to have so much to offer economically and, let’s be honest, also just to spite the new occupant of the White House.

    President Xi’s chiseled words don’t match the bleak reality of what China is doing.

    Quite frankly, this type of knee-jerk ‘Europe First’ strategy can only backfire because it is built on false premises. It is true that, while Donald Trump’s tweets continued to haunt us, President Xi Jin Ping held a remarkable speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos. In it, he sang the praise of socially conscious globalisation, open borders and global governance – just as the new US President was shouting ‘America First!’ from our TV screens.

    Rhetorically, China has also been an advocate of a strong EU for some time. And last but not least, the grandious project of a ‘New Silk Road’ linking Asia to Europe might come to symbolise not only stronger economic but also strategic links. But one thorough look at China and the world today is enough to see that President Xi’s chiseled words don’t match the bleak reality of what China is doing as we speak.

    The Chinese Communist Party has never stopped considering ‘Western’ ideas about human rights a threat. 

    First, in the South China Sea, the Beijing government is continuing its expansion against all global rules, to the great worries of its neighbours in the region, and rejecting the consultation and arbitration mechanisms foreseen in the UN system and the International Court of Justice. This is all the more dangerous because Russia has, in recent years, begun doing exactly the same in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine: undermining the global liberal order, not only with words, but also deeds.

    Second, China does not really seem to favour a strong European Union. Its ’16 + 1’ initiative, comprising 16 cash-strapped countries inside and outside the EU, is clearly designed to create a generic grouping of countries that share a communist past as well as financial dependency on China turning into some degree of political subservience.

    Hungary is a case in point – its breaking ranks with the rest of the EU on condemning Chinese expansionism in Asia is exemplary of Beijing’s divide et impera strategy. Chinese support for sub-EU regional groupings now also seems to extend to the Mediterranean members and even to the Nordics.

    Third, President Xi’s lofty appeals to global governance eclipse China’s peculiar ideas about national governance, as they come out in its unconditional support for corrupt, dictatorial regimes in Africa, and even more in its crackdown on freedom of expression and the first buds of civil society in China itself. The increasing suppression of previously assured civic rights in Hong Kong, and especially the kidnapping of EU citizens (Chinese with double nationalities) from South East Asia, are examples of what is really going on.

    The Chinese Communist Party has never stopped considering ‘Western’ ideas about human rights a threat. All this is not to mention the regular military threats against democratic Taiwan. Finally, one has to mention Chinese state-sponsored criminal activity, as in the systematic violation of copyright law and the organised hacking of American and European technology firms.

    All this does not mean that Europe should not seek cooperation with China on issues of global importance, such as trade and climate change. But let’s remain realistic as to the prospects of a strategic partnership with a country whose governing elite and many of its citizens have such a different outlook on our world.

    Making America great again is not possible without friends and allies. 

    Instead of flirting with China, we’d better try to convince the US administration that making America great again is not possible without friends and allies, and that the most natural members of that group will always be found in Europe. The President’s State of the Union speech on 28 February, though mainly focused on domestic affairs, should be read as a sign that the administration is thinking along those lines now.

    Given America’s old and strong democracy, Trump, even if he tried, would have a hard time overturning the global liberal order against America’s own creation – a system of value-based alliances that has been developed for over a century. For Europe, it’s time to get real and start working with what we still have, instead of relying on what we’re supposed to hear in Davos and other places. 

    Roland Freudenstein Democracy EU-US Foreign Policy Trade

    Roland Freudenstein

    Why China is still a threat and America still our ally


    03 Mar 2017

  • “People tend to forget that it is not just about pro-bono work in the European neighborhood; it is also our own interests that are at stake there.” This point, made by Martens Centre Executive Tomi Huhtanen, kicked off a debate organised in Brussels on 31 January 2017 on the strategic rethink of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP).

    The EU’s current ENP policy is focused on supporting democratic transformation and creating economic opportunities in its neighbourhood through technical cooperation and economic integration.

    But with growing instability including the Brexit decision, rising Euroscepticism, new ‘hybrid warfare’ threats, an assertive Russia, the rise of Islamic State and declining US engagement in European security, Europe has to take bold and decisive action to secure its long-term interests.

    As the spillover effects of instability in the regions outside of the EU are taking a significant toll on the Union, rethinking the way it deals with its neighbourhood has to play a central part in the EU’s Global Strategy.

    According to Salome Samadashvili, former EU Ambassador and current member of the Georgian Parliament, “the EU must graduate from a global actor to a geopolitical actor.” In order to achieve this, she argues for a pragmatic, yet principled and creative approach to EU’s policies in its neighbourhood.

    EU institutions think in five or ten year terms. But if you operate in Georgia or in Libya you only have the luxury of planning up to one month in advance. Salome Samadashvili, former EU Ambassador and current Georgian MP

    Sandra Kalniete, Latvian Member of the European Parliament added that countries in the neighbourhood need to be assessed case-by-case; for too long, the EU has been trying to apply a one-size-fits-all approach that has not benefited neither the EU, nor its partners.

    During the event, Kalniete also emphasised a shift “from rule-based to deal-based diplomacy” taken by the new US administration; however, she maintained that the EU needs to stay true to its values while projecting its power abroad.

    Not giving up our values while adding more pragmatism to the way Europe deals with its neighbourhood was a point also echoed by Bruno Lété, Security and Defence Transatlantic Fellow with the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

    In ten years from now China will be an inevitable factor in EU’s neighborhood policy towards the Mediterranean. Bruno Lété, Security and Defence Transatlantic Fellow, German Marshall Fund of the United States

    Subsequently, he argued for more short-term flexibility rather than long-term planning on the part of the EU. His third recommendation was that any successful foreign policy needs to be coupled with the ability to project power; this is where, according to Lété, NATO and EU-NATO cooperation come into play. Rather than debating where to place shared defence assets, the West needs to work more on efficient ways of delivering training, education and financial support to its partners.  

    Defence Development Foreign Policy Neighbourhood Policy Security

    EU’s foreign policy needs values and muscle to survive

    Other News

    01 Feb 2017

  • Russian officials have had to contain their glee in monitoring recent political events in America and Europe. They appear to think their days in the cold may soon be over. Much has been made of President-elect Donald Trump’s wish to improve relations with Moscow, but the last news out of France appears even more auspicious to Moscow.

    The far-right candidate, Marine Le Pen, is known for her pro-Putin sympathies. Now, with François Fillon’s nomination as the center-right candidate, both major contenders in next year’s French presidential election are favorably disposed toward Russia.

    These warmer feelings towards Russia are based, mainly, on changing threat perceptions in the West. Since the emergence of the Islamic State and the proliferation of terrorist attacks in Europe and America, many Europeans and Americans appear to view Moscow’s aggression against its neighbors, such as Ukraine and Georgia, as an increasingly esoteric problem.

    Particularly after Russia’s intervention in Syria, even on the right many now view Russia not as a threat to the West but as a natural ally in defeating the jihadi threat.

    These warmer feelings towards Russia are based, mainly, on changing threat perceptions in the West.

    While this notion is gaining popularity, it is at best the triumph of hope over experience, and at worst a dangerous delusion. Russia’s interaction with radical Islam over two decades shows that it is part of the problem, not the solution. In fact, leaders in Moscow have a track record of manipulating radical Islam whenever that has suited their purposes – including systematic collusion with Islamic extremists. A few examples illustrate this policy.

    Exhibit one is the twenty-year insurgency in Chechnya and the North Caucasus. In this conflict, the forces fighting for independence from Russia were divided between secular nationalists and Islamic radicals. Because the secular nationalists enjoyed considerable legitimacy both in the West and among the local population, Moscow actively encouraged the growth of the jihadi elements, which were disliked locally and anathema to the West.

    Moscow worked hard to kill off the leaders of Chechnya’s secular nationalists. By contrast, there is compelling evidence of collusion between Russia’s secret services and the region’s most notorious radicals, such as Shamil Basayev and Arbi Barayev, and of systematic Russian infiltration of the radical Islamic groups from the North Caucasus.

    As Russia imposed a brutal proxy regime in Chechnya, it sought to leave Chechens and foreigners alike with a binary choice: tolerate the brutal Kadyrov regime, or side with the jihadis.

    Russia’s interaction with radical Islam over two decades shows that it is part of the problem, not the solution.

    Exhibit two is the case of Russia’s foreign fighters in Syria. Ahead of the 2014 Sochi winter Olympics, held next to the North Caucasus, Moscow in spite of its infiltration of jihadi networks faced an acute risk of terrorist attacks. So, as Novaya Gazeta’s Elena Milashina has showed, Russia’s Federal Security Service organized a “pipeline” to facilitate the export of North Caucasian radicals to fight in Syria. Would-be fighters were provided passports and safe passage; some were recruited by Russian intelligence services.

    Indeed, foreign fighters from Russia have reached higher in the hierarchy of the Islamic State than any other foreign fighters, and work alongside Saddam Hussein’s former Baathist officers who – similarly – have deep connections to Moscow dating to the Soviet period. Is this a coincidence? The exact nature of these relationships is by nature murky, but the level of state infiltration of the jihadi circles in Russia at the very least raises serious questions about Moscow’s links to the Islamic State.

    But, critics may counter, has not Russia’s intervention in Syria served to wipe out these jihadis? Again, while this is the Russian rhetoric, the record shows otherwise. Never mind that Russia has tried, falsely, to take credit for the American drone strikes that have decimated the Islamic State leadership.

    By now, it is widely established that Russian airstrikes have not primarily targeted the Islamic State at all, but other rebel groups fighting the Assad regime, as in Aleppo. In reality, Moscow is taking a page from the playbook in Chechnya: by eliminating the rebel groups, it strives to mold a situation that presents a binary choice, and where the only alternative to the Assad regime is the Islamic State.

    Exhibit three is Afghanistan, where Moscow since last year established contacts with the Taliban insurgency, which is responsible for the deaths of thousands of American soldiers. Citing the need to fight the Islamic State franchise in the country, Moscow began intelligence sharing programs with the Taliban, and provided this jihadi group with international legitimacy.

    Even Russia’s claims to be a bulwark against Islamic radicalization in nearby Central Asia fails to hold up to scrutiny. In fact, it is by now established that most Central Asians fighting in Syria or Iraq are not radicalized in their home countries, where governments have a solid track record of countering radicalization.

    In fact, the large majority of Central Asian recruits to Islamic radical movements have been radicalized while toiling as temporary and often illegal workers in Russia itself. Far from being a bulwark against extremism, Russia is domestically an incubator of radical Islam.

    This bleak picture raises the question: if Russia is not fighting Islamic extremism, then what are its real goals? The answer is twofold. First, in places a different as Chechnya and Syria, Russia actively tries to shape the actors on the battlefield to leave a binary choice between Islamic extremists and brutal strongmen dependent on Moscow.

    Second, in theaters as diverse as Afghanistan and Syria, Russia’s focus is squarely to undermine the national security interests of the United States. In Afghanistan, Russia is supporting the Taliban against Islamic State; while in Syria it claims to fight ISIS, but in fact ignores it and instead targets other rebel groups. The common denominator? Russia alternatively bolsters America’s main enemy, or actively targets its local allies.

    The notion that Russia is, or could be, an ally against the threat of radical Islam is a dangerous delusion. Russia’s record makes it clear that it sees America, not Islamic extremism, as its main enemy. So long as Vladimir Putin runs Russia, Russia will remain part of the problem, not the solution.

    Svante Cornell Defence EU-Russia Foreign Policy

    Svante Cornell

    Russia: an Enabler of Jihad?


    16 Jan 2017

  • The past year has witnessed a major shift in the relationships between the four Central European countries that make up the Visegrád Group. In matters related to migration, the members of the alliance have worked together in Brussels as a cohesive bloc throughout 2016.

    But in the wake of Brexit, simmering internal divisions have arisen within this regional alliance over the EU’s future. The Visegrád Group acts as an amplifier, an ad hoc coalition, reinforcing regional positions where they exist. Its diplomatic infrastructure and other structural factors are here to stay, but the key drivers of its stances are now domestic politics and the role of the countries’ leaders.

    In the absence of a shared vision for the future of Europe and the role of EU institutions, the honeymoon period seems to be over. A ‘conservative revolution’ in Poland has created an illiberal axis with Hungary, where a sovereigntist narrative holds sway, while the Czech and Slovak governments have maintained a more pragmatic line on the EU. The new risk is that reinventing the EU will come at the expense of (divided) Central Europeans.

    Read the full article in the December 2016 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Milan Nic EU Member States European Union Foreign Policy Leadership

    Milan Nic

    The Visegrád Group in the EU: 2016 as a turning-point?


    20 Dec 2016

  • The existence of natural panaceas or silver bullets in diplomatic agreements is currently under examination. Diplomacy has evolved from the classical theories of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, which stressed the importance of objective factors, to modern ideas that highlight the human element as well.

    This explains why finding generalised models in diplomatic arrangements was easier in the old forms of diplomacy than in its more modern counterparts. Diplomatic agreements have become increasingly complex, covering many fields beyond conflict in the traditional sense. The Dayton Accords and Minsk Agreements are good examples of this.

    This complexity hampers our ability to find a universal formula which can work for all diplomatic situations and agreements. For some scholars a settlement must produce a set of arrangements that lasts for generations, demonstrating robustness and permanence, while for others, the measurement of success is based on the ability of the agreement to meet initial expectations.

    Read the full article in the December 2016 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Jorge Mestre-Jorda Foreign Policy Leadership

    Jorge Mestre-Jorda

    Are there formulas for successful diplomatic agreements?


    19 Dec 2016

  • Immediately after Donald Trump was elected 45th President of the United States, many commentators have suggested that his policies toward Russia will not be as accommodating as his campaign rhetoric on Vladimir Putin, and that Trump may eventually become a difficult counterpart for the current Russian leadership. Arguments for that theory include, among others, persistent fundamental differences on certain issues, Putin’s unreliability and unpredictability, Trump’s focus on ‘America First’, pressure from certain anti-Putin forces in the GOP establishment, etc.

    However, all these arguments consider only the bilateral U.S.-Russia dimension as if it existed in a vacuum. But if you put Trump-Russia relations in the broader global context that is about to emerge because of Trump’s presidency, all these differences and problems don’t stand a chance to outweigh a perfect global match between the common interests of both Putin and Trump.

    Trump’s foreign policy is largely uncharted waters, but one thing is very clear – he will be involved in many important global conflicts. Rearranging NAFTA and other trade agreements, dealing with China as a rising power, loads of issues in the Middle East (Syria and the potential scrapping of the Iranian nuclear deal to begin with, but there’s always so much more in that particular region).

    What do you do when you’re about to engage in many tough battles of global significance, and want to cover your flanks and back? One of the first things – you look for important players with whom you can reach a solid ‘ceasefire’ to untie your hands for bigger things. This is what Turkish President Erdogan did a few months ago, almost simultaneously reaching out for a thaw with Russia and Israel, relations with both of whom were quite difficult recently, to untie his hands for multiple other ventures both at home and abroad.

    In Trump’s case, Putin’s Russia dangerously fits into this fundamental logic. There are clear signs in Moscow that Putin has been carefully preparing for ways to approach Trump. He’ll appeal to his business logic (the flip side of which is his complete lack of experience in public governance and international affairs) and offer him a “deal” – the term so dear to the newly elected U.S. leader: Give me back some of the minor stuff which stands in the way of our relationship (Ukraine, human rights in Russia, financial sanctions) – and I’ll support you in your bigger global efforts.

    Given Putin’s skills in psychology and recruitment inherited from his earlier profession – which were so brilliantly used initially with George W. Bush, for whom just one look into Putin’s “soul” seems to have overshadowed all Russian authoritarian trends in the beginning of Putin’s rule – that looks quite achievable.

    Yes, on the other hand, there are established Republicans demanding sanctions for human rights violations – but Trump would easily answer by keeping in place the personal sanctions lists against Russian officials, such as the Magnitsky list, which, in fact, is not too much of a problem for Putin. The key problem for him are the financial sanctions imposed by the Obama administration – and here, there are huge U.S. corporate interests behind lifting those.

    Lifting financial sanctions and keeping the window-dressing lists of Russian human-rights abusers banned from entry into the U.S.: Putin will be happy with that. What he wants most is to return to major borrowing in the Western financial markets, not allowing his prosecutors and judges to freely travel to Miami (in fact, Putin himself had recently prohibited all these people from travelling abroad).

    Ukraine? Putin may even offer a real de-escalation in Donbass in return for a more general U.S. withdrawal from political and financial support for the current Ukrainian government. This would also give an opportunity to Trump to say ‘See, I’ve achieved what Obama couldn’t – real peace in Eastern Ukraine’.

    This is how a big Trump-Putin deal might look like – and nothing serious seems to stand in its way, given Trump’s priorities focused on other things, and Putin’s apparent readiness  to propose and psychologically ‘sell’ this new U.S.-Russia non-aggression pact.

    Vladimir Milov EU-Russia EU-US Foreign Policy Transatlantic Values

    Vladimir Milov

    The Art of the (Trump-Putin) Deal


    14 Nov 2016

  • As Tunisia continues to move forward on the path of democratisation and pluralism, the problems it may still face remain significant. A comparative analysis of the (failed) Algerian attempt to democratise and the current process underway in Tunisia could shed light on what Tunisia needs to do to avoid a setback in its democratisation process.

    Read the full article in the December 2016 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Dario Cristiani Arab Spring Democracy Foreign Policy Mediterranean North Africa

    Dario Cristiani

    Consolidating pluralism under the terrorist threat: the Tunisian case and the Algerian experience


    07 Nov 2016

  • Regional and local authorities already promote their own policies and actions in the international arena for humanitarian, political, commercial, cultural and institutional reasons. From cross-border to decentralised cooperation, under the concept of City diplomacy, local authorities often move independently and actively, both in the international arena and in the EU’s decision-making processes.

    They act during conflicts, providing peace-building and dialogue opportunities, and take action in post-conflict regions or regions in need. This form of diplomacy complements traditional diplomacy and is mostly activated when the latter is frozen or required to remain low profile for contingent, political reasons. These new actors, with strong devolved powers at home and strong political leadership, deserve more attention from international players such as the European Commission and some of the United Nations’ agencies.

    The current scheme of international cooperation is overly rigid. There is a need for more flexibility so that support—including financial support—can be better targeted to meet specific needs. This could lead to regional and local actors becoming direct recipients of international financial support for planning and running decentralised or bottom-up forms of cooperation, partnership and political dialogue.

    Read the full article in the December 2016 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Filippo Terruso Development Foreign Policy Regionalisation

    Filippo Terruso

    Complementing traditional diplomacy: regional and local authorities going international


    07 Nov 2016

  • The latest coup attempt in Turkey came as a surprise both due to the baffling logic behind it and the awkwardness of its implementation. Of course, many reasons existed that made some in the army unhappy with Erdoğan. However, the leadership of the army had been already replaced with Erdoğan’s loyalists, while the population would not support a coup.

    Many both within and outside Turkey disapprove of his authoritarian tendencies: the resumed war against the Kurds; his early support of Islamist rebels in Syria; the crackdown on democratic freedoms and free presshumiliating apology to Russia’s Putin after all previous sabre-rattling; and, finally, his desire to change the constitution aiming at super-presidency. However, Erdoğan still enjoys the support of about half of Turkey’s population, due to the prosperity he brought to many, his appeal to traditionalist feeling, clever populism and macho charisma.

    Erdoğan, like many opportunistic rulers, is excellent at turning even the most unfavourable circumstances to his personal benefit. This pattern is being reiterated once again, as the coup is used as a pretext for doing whatever he intended to do anyway – pursuing a one-man rule by cleansing of all opposition. Still, the coup serves as a gloomy harbinger of future troubles, as Erdoğan tries to use these events to further strengthen his already formidable authority and clout. However, it is far from obvious that this will be equally beneficial for the country’s democratic future or even prosperity.

    Indeed, the writing is on the wall for Turkey. Apart from the slowing of the Turkish economy, one may expect falling investment amid potential instability and civil strife, as well as scared-off tourist flows diverted to safer destinations. If capital punishment is introduced that will mean a long-term goodbye to European integration plans, while cooling relations with Europe will hurt both trade and the international standing of the country.

    Immediately after the coup, Federica Mogherini explicitly warned Turkey that countries allowing the death penalty cannot join the EU. However, John Kerry’s warning sounded even more chilling – while America stands squarely on the side of the elected leadership in Turkey, NATO also has a requirement with respect to democracy. Now, if Turkey’s government is ready to drop the Western support and its European aspiration, and even risk losing its NATO membership, it is difficult to imagine any bright future either for the country or its leadership.

    Now one may look at all of this from a totally different, Caucasian perspective. Turkey is one of the key actors in the South Caucasus, and either its weakening or its alienation from the West may damage the currently existing fragile balance and bring around instability, along with strengthening the Russian dominance. After the attempted coup, Erdoğan has applied efforts to restore ties between Turkey and Russia, and such rapprochement may even lead to Turkey’s political realignment.

    Erdoğan’s actions have caused strong criticism from Turkey’s NATO allies for the unproportional crackdown on alleged opponents, while Turkey in its turn has praised Russia for its support since, and Erdogan will visit Russia on 9 August, which now, according to Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek “isn’t just our close and friendly neighbor, but also a strategic partner”. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in his turn stated, that Turkey receive “unconditional support” from Russia over the coup attempt, while anti-U.S. sentiment was rising in the country.

    There is one more important development in the Turkey-Russia relationship: beyond lifting all anti-Turkish sanctions introduced after the downing of the Russian military aircraft in Syria, Russian officials started talking about the revival of the South Stream gas pipeline project, which may negatively influence alternative energy projects involving Azerbaijan and Georgia. No doubt such changes may indeed endanger the big-scale projects aiming to bring Caspian gas and oil to the West, with Georgia serving as an important transit hub.

    Some other developments related to events in Turkey can already be expected in the South Caucasus. Turkey’s weakened geopolitical weight or its geopolitical realignment may in turn lead to the dangerous weakening of Azerbaijan’s position vis-à-vis Armenia regarding the Mountainous Karabakh issue and may bring back the flaring of hostilities if not full-blown war.

    Immediately after the coup, Azerbaijan’s president Aliev sent a letter of unequivocal support to Erdogan, but other developments are even more expressive. Already on July 20, Azerbaijan’s Education Ministry announced that an allegedly Gülen-affiliated Qafqas University in Baku has been closed down, and more action along the same lines is expected, as Gülenists have been actively supporting educational institutions both in Azerbaijan and in Georgia.

    But the repercussions of the Turkish coup may go even further, both in reality and in public perception. Even the timing of the recent hostage-taking and violence in Armenia’s capital Yerevan has been paradoxically linked by some observers to developments in Turkey. While in the case of Georgia Turkey can hardly be seen as an important military factor, Turkey’s weakening and the total regional domination of Russia hardly gives grounds for expecting anything good for Georgia’s pro-western aspirations and security.

    On the whole, the recent developments in Turkey give cause for concern and illustrate that the future of the region remains in limbo. 

    Teona Lavrelashvili Defence Democracy Eastern Europe Foreign Policy Security

    Teona Lavrelashvili

    A failed coup in Turkey and its possible repercussions: the view from the Caucasus


    28 Jul 2016

  • A lot remains unclear regarding the attempted coup that shook Turkey. But it is possible to draw some preliminary conclusions about its background and implications.

    The coup was not planned and implemented within the chain of command. The Chief of General Staff and the heads of the crucial First Army and Special Forces remained loyal to the government. This, not people on the street, was the key reason the coup failed. Not least, it allowed President Erdogan to slip out of Marmaris before being caught and to get to Istanbul.

    The coup appears to have been hastily put together and poorly implemented. The failure to seize or liquidate the president, cabinet, and vital communication infrastructure made it possible for Erdogan to regain the initiative. This suggests that the plotters’ hands were forced, and that the coup was launched prematurely. There are suggestions that a list was leaked before the coup of officers scheduled for discharge and arrest, which could have precipitated the coup, explaining the lack of proper preparation.

    The most vexing question concerns the exact identity of the coup plotters. Who were the architects behind what appears on the surface to be a faceless, even leaderless coup? The Turkish government is pointing fingers at the Fethullah Gülen movement – something that may seem counter-intuitive, because it was precisely Erodgan’s confrontation with them two years ago that led him to let the military back in from the cold and rebuild for himself a ruling coalition much more right-wing nationalist in nature, united by the struggle against the Kurds.

    But that said, it has long been assumed that Gülenist cliques were present in the military at mid-career ranks. But no one believes that Gülenist officers had risen to the ranks of three or four star generals. Thus, while it is very likely that Gülenist officers were involved, it is equally obvious that they could not have carried this out on their own. The more senior generals apparently involved do not seem to have any Gülenist affiliations.

    Hence, the coup may have been carried out by an unholy alliance between a faction of old-school Kemalist and Gülenist officers. If this is the case, it would mean that while Erdogan allied with the top military brass against the Gülenists, another military fraction allied with the Gülenists against Erdogan.

    This is what Turkey has come to: its politics in the past few years can best be understood as a struggle for power between two Islamic sects. In the process, Turkey’s military appears now to have at least three separate fractions and to be much more politicized and divided than has been assumed.

    A further important aspect of the coup was President Erdogan’s response: he mobilised his supporters through the use of Islamic rhetoric that would have been unthinkable even five years ago. Mosques were ordered by the State religious directorate, which Erdogan has built up into a behemoth, to broadcast calls for prayer all through the night and to call regime supporters out on the streets. Often, the call appears to have been framed as “Jihad”.

    And indeed, those who came out to oppose the coup almost exclusively looked like Islamist activists singing Islamist chants. It is already apparent that President Erdogan has concluded that Islamist mobilisation was what saved him, hence the remaining inhibitions against further Islamisation of Turkey will dissipate. Erdogan’s Turkey is likely to more openly deploy Islamist rhetoric and policies.

    The Gülen fraternity’s alleged responsibility for the coup is already being used as pretext for a full-scale purge of state institutions. Unlike previous occasions, the coup gives Erdogan the opportunity to arrest and jail opponents by the thousands. It is already clear that repression will spread beyond Gülenists: entire lists of scholars, journalists and officials to be jailed have already been leaked. Whatever is left of Turkish democracy is about to be neutralised, and if Erdogan completes this repressive purge, it goes without saying that Turkey can no longer be called a democracy.

    The failed coup will have important foreign policy implications. Erdogan and his entourage have long believed the Gülen fraternity to be following Washington’s orders, and senior government officials have already suggested that the U.S. was behind the coup. Erdogan appears to be making extradition of Gülen a litmus test of the U.S.-Turkish alliance, a demand that will likely not be granted, given the lack of any kind of concrete evidence. In fact, the involvement of Gülenist officers does not necessary implicate the ailing preacher himself in the coup.

    In any case, the U.S.-Turkish relationships has been put at risk, and Secretary John Kerry’s threat of consequences for Turkey’s NATO membership has shown that perhaps Washington is tiring of Erdogan’s antics. The most likely immediate point of contention will be the Incirlik military base, which the U.S. uses to hit ISIS targets in Syria.

    Similarly, Turkey-EU relations will be impacted, most immediately because it is hard to imagine how the EU will now go ahead with visa liberalisation. In turn, that likely puts the cynical migration deal between Brussels and Ankara to death. If Turkey reinstates the death penalty, which is quite plausible, Turkish-EU relations are likely to deteriorate even further.

    In conclusion, it is important to see the coup attempt as an indication of the deeper decay of the Turkish state under Erdogan’s rule. As Erdogan has sought to concentrate power in his own hands, the exercise of power has become increasingly informal, all checks and balances removed, and all institutions including his own political party increasingly ineffectual. This made the coup possible in the first place, and future coups can be avoided only if Turkey develops strong, accountable democratic institutions.

    But instead, under Erdogan’s personal rule, Turkey’s destabilisation is likely to continue. Thus, European leaders now need to see what has been obvious for some time: rather than an ally with which to handle regional problems, Turkey will itself increasingly be the problem.

    Svante Cornell Democracy Foreign Policy Islam Security

    Svante Cornell

    A botched coup and Turkey’s descent into madness


    19 Jul 2016

  • In the post-Soviet space as well as the Middle East, Western leaders have largely failed to heed ample evidence that the goals of the Russian leadership are fundamentally opposed to those of the EU and the US. Whereas Moscow seeks to counter Western influence and roll back the US’s role in the world, the West has proposed a win–win approach, seeking to convince Moscow that its ‘true’ interests should lead it to cooperate with the West.

    When this has not worked, Western leaders have ‘compartmentalised’, isolating areas of agreement from areas of disagreement. This approach has come to the end of the road because the assumptions that undergird it are false. So long as Western powers fail to understand the fundamental incompatibility of their interests with the deeply anti-Western interests of the current power brokers in the Kremlin, they are unlikely to develop policies that achieve success.

    Read the full articlein the June 2016 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Svante Cornell EU-Russia Foreign Policy Middle East Security

    Svante Cornell

    The fallacy of ‘compartmentalisation’: the West and Russia from Ukraine to Syria


    25 May 2016

  • In Asia the rise of both China and India is becoming a reality. Their growth is of an unprecedented scale. While the US continues to be the only superpower, it needs the help of like-minded countries to deal with international challenges. Beyond 2030, the G3—the US, China and India as the pillars of a tri-polar world—may become a reality.

    In order to cope with changes of this magnitude, increased cooperation between the US, Europe and democracies in Asia is essential. To be successful in adopting this new strategic landscape, it is necessary to strengthen the ties between Europe and democracies in Asia. In this regard, rule-making is the key area for success.

    Japan is contributing to these efforts by applying a comprehensive engagement policy towards China while strengthening its alliance with the US. Establishing strategic ties with India is also important. Japan and Europe can do much to help achieve stability. After all, Japan needs a strong and engaging Europe, just as Europe needs a strong and active Japan.

    Read the full articlein the June 2016 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Masafumi Ishii Foreign Policy Globalisation Security

    Masafumi Ishii

    Regional security in Asia: Japan’s strategy for stability and the role of Europe


    03 May 2016

  • Calls for the permanent deployment of substantial combat forces in Eastern European NATO states, primarily in the Baltics and Poland, have been part of the debates on strategy among the member states for years. In the wake of the Ukrainian crisis, the defence capabilities of the Eastern European allies must undoubtedly be strengthened.

    However, in light of the yet-to-be-implemented measures that the allies decided upon at the Wales Summit, a more general shift of international security challenges towards ‘hybrid’ warfare scenarios, Russia’s centrality in the Middle East peace process and the long-term viability of the Alliance, permanently deploying substantial combat forces in Eastern Europe would not strengthen the security of Europe and the coherence of NATO.

    Read the full articlein the June 2016 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Roderich Kiesewetter Ingmar Zielke Defence EU-Russia Foreign Policy Security

    Roderich Kiesewetter

    Ingmar Zielke

    Permanent NATO deployment is not the answer to European security


    03 May 2016

  • The security threats Europe is now facing, such as hybrid warfare, propaganda campaigns and information warfare, frequently include a digital dimension. At the same time, digital tools offer an immense potential for change in the European neighbourhood, not least in their ability to equip and inspire pro-democracy protesters, particularly those facing a repressive security apparatus.

    Digital policy cannot therefore become an afterthought but needs to be deeply integrated into Europe’s foreign policy and diplomatic efforts. Furthermore, the US’s long-held Internet hegemony is beginning to fade, placing the EU in a good position to lead global Internet governance initiatives and ensure that they develop along open and liberal lines.

    Read the full articlein the June 2016 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Łukasz Antoni Król Foreign Policy Internet Neighbourhood Policy Security Technology

    Łukasz Antoni Król

    Digital foreign policy: how digital tools can further Europe’s foreign policy goals


    12 Apr 2016

  • What have we learned and what are the implications for Putin and for relations between Russia and the West from the ‘Panama Papers’ scandal? Here’s what we know so far.

    Substantial evidence of Putin’s involvement  

    The owner of two Russia-linked offshore companies with an alleged turnover around $2 billion, cellist Sergey Roldugin, has no record of major involvement in business and nothing in Roldugin’s experience or career suggests that he is worth this much. In a 2014 interview with The New York Times , he said ‘I’m not a businessman, I don’t have millions’, a claim which is supported by the lack of evidence of meaningful business activity on his behalf.

    Is there any reason major Russian businesses would pay billions through highly controversial deals to a cellist with no practical business experience and no value as a business partner?

    Oh, wait, let’s not forget one important thing: the cellist is the closest personal friend of the Russian President. The money transfer schemes involved are mostly obscene in terms of full lack of commercial sense: unreasonably huge penalties for wittingly breached deals, generous buy-offs of publicly traded shares just days after they were sold to Roldugin’s firms at but a fraction of the future buy-off price, etc. All these deals will be subject to thorough money-laundering investigation because this is what bribes normally look like in the modern world.

    What implications for Russia?

    Most commentators agree that the publication of the ‘Panama Papers’ will have little public effect on the Russian society. There are a number of reasons for this: Russia’s state media almost completely silenced the revelation about the papers, Russians are used to it and, to a large extent, tolerate large-scale corruption. Some people would buy arguments that ‘it’s the Western plot to discredit Putin’ and that ‘Putin’s personal signature is not in the register = no proof’.

    However, among the Russian elites, this publication will undoubtedly have a great psychological effect. Alongside Roldugin, many Russian officials and businessmen have been exposed in the papers as owners of offshore companies. And many of them have already had too much to deal with in previous years – Western sanctions, the international credit blockade, difficulties moving money back and forth across the borders, dealing with Western authorities and financial institutions. They thought that Putin’s system would offer them protection once they’ve been loyal to the Czar—but now it seems that the Czar is mostly busy covering his own deals, and the protection has vanished. On top of this, the additional sanctions and growing difficulty in cross-border business as a result of the Czar’s policies likely make them question if it is worth it supporting Putin and his system any longer?

    I do not believe that an ‘elite revolt’ against Putin will occur in Russia any time soon—Putin has effectively managed to suppress the quality of the Russian elites, expel the most outstanding persons from power, and breed only loyal depoliticised technocrats around him, who are also under 24/7 surveillance by the security services. But the ‘Panama Papers’ are an important milestone in creating a situation where, there will be few who would stand to defend him, as, unlike previous years, a lot of influential people have had enough.

    As for Russia’s relations with the West, clearly the issue of the alleged link between President Putin and the Panama offshore money will be investigated much more in-depth. There is enough evidence that a link possibly exists, so it is not enough to rely just on independent investigative journalists—it is time for governments to step in if they are serious in their rhetoric about combating corruption and money laundering.

    Vladimir Milov Economy EU-Russia Foreign Policy

    Vladimir Milov

    The Panama Papers and the Russian Connection


    11 Apr 2016

  • What have we learned and what are the implications for Putin and for relations between Russia and the West from the ‘Panama Papers’ scandal? Here’s what we know so far.

    Substantial evidence of Putin’s involvement  

    The owner of two Russia-linked offshore companies with an alleged turnover around $2 billion, cellist Sergey Roldugin, has no record of major involvement in business and nothing in Roldugin’s experience or career suggests that he is worth this much. In a 2014 interview with The New York Times , he said ‘I’m not a businessman, I don’t have millions’, a claim which is supported by the lack of evidence of meaningful business activity on his behalf.

    Is there any reason major Russian businesses would pay billions through highly controversial deals to a cellist with no practical business experience and no value as a business partner?

    Oh, wait, let’s not forget one important thing: the cellist is the closest personal friend of the Russian President. The money transfer schemes involved are mostly obscene in terms of full lack of commercial sense: unreasonably huge penalties for wittingly breached deals, generous buy-offs of publicly traded shares just days after they were sold to Roldugin’s firms at but a fraction of the future buy-off price, etc. All these deals will be subject to thorough money-laundering investigation because this is what bribes normally look like in the modern world.

    What implications for Russia?

    Most commentators agree that the publication of the ‘Panama Papers’ will have little public effect on the Russian society. There are a number of reasons for this: Russia’s state media almost completely silenced the revelation about the papers, Russians are used to it and, to a large extent, tolerate large-scale corruption. Some people would buy arguments that ‘it’s the Western plot to discredit Putin’ and that ‘Putin’s personal signature is not in the register = no proof’.

    However, among the Russian elites, this publication will undoubtedly have a great psychological effect. Alongside Roldugin, many Russian officials and businessmen have been exposed in the papers as owners of offshore companies. And many of them have already had too much to deal with in previous years – Western sanctions, the international credit blockade, difficulties moving money back and forth across the borders, dealing with Western authorities and financial institutions. They thought that Putin’s system would offer them protection once they’ve been loyal to the Czar—but now it seems that the Czar is mostly busy covering his own deals, and the protection has vanished. On top of this, the additional sanctions and growing difficulty in cross-border business as a result of the Czar’s policies likely make them question if it is worth it supporting Putin and his system any longer?

    I do not believe that an ‘elite revolt’ against Putin will occur in Russia any time soon—Putin has effectively managed to suppress the quality of the Russian elites, expel the most outstanding persons from power, and breed only loyal depoliticised technocrats around him, who are also under 24/7 surveillance by the security services. But the ‘Panama Papers’ are an important milestone in creating a situation where, there will be few who would stand to defend him, as, unlike previous years, a lot of influential people have had enough.

    As for Russia’s relations with the West, clearly the issue of the alleged link between President Putin and the Panama offshore money will be investigated much more in-depth. There is enough evidence that a link possibly exists, so it is not enough to rely just on independent investigative journalists—it is time for governments to step in if they are serious in their rhetoric about combating corruption and money laundering.

    Vladimir Milov Economy EU-Russia Foreign Policy

    Vladimir Milov

    The Panama Papers and the Russian Connection


    11 Apr 2016

  • These are unsettling times for the US and Europe. On the transatlantic periphery, the Islamic State (IS) is destabilising Syria and Iraq, Russia is fighting a ‘Cold Peace’ with Ukraine, and NATO’s eastern flank looks wobbly and exposed. All the while, Russian forces are projecting power into the Middle East and an increasingly assertive Chinese navy is probing the waters of North America and the Mediterranean (Bugajski2004; Lucas 2015; Sciutto 2015; Holmes 2015).

    If the frontiers look troubled, the home fronts are not especially calm either. On both sides of the Atlantic, democratic polities are grappling with the plight of refugees and undocumented immigrants, the perils of bloated deficits, and the shock of sporadic, politically motivated violence. If there was ever a time to forge a confident, transatlantic response to shared policy dilemmas, this is the ideal moment. Yet out on the US presidential campaign trail, iron-clad solidarity with Europe is not universal.

    American foreign policy is fast approaching a decision point. Will the US turn inward or outward during the next presidential administration; will President Barack Obama’s successor muster the financial resources to deter rising competitors and restore tranquillity to the global commons; and what, if anything, are Europeans to make of the unusually large crop of 2016 presidential hopefuls? The answers that each campaign offers to these questions provide insight into the next phase of the transatlantic relationship. Unfortunately, some of the answers currently set forth are troubling.

    Read the full FREE article published in the December 2015 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Peter Doran EU-US Foreign Policy Transatlantic

    Peter Doran

    America’s new direction in foreign policy


    23 Dec 2015

  • What we are going through now … will change our country. – Angela Merkel

    We don’t want to change! – Viktor Orban

    Just like previous crises, the one about the refugees has highlighted a deep split among member states of the European Union. The Euro crisis seemed to divide the Union into North and South. This one goes East-West. It could actually become the most destructive split we have seen since the Union enlarged to 25 in 2004. Mind you, it is an East-West rift only on the government level. The electoral successes of national populists such as Front National show that the picture is more complex. So does the fact that in Central Europe, parts of civil society valiantly fight back against their governments’ tendencies. And yet, the conflict is now largely perceived as East vs. West, new vs. old member states.

    Why is this so significant? Because the Big Bang enlargement of 2004, and the two smaller ones 2007 and 2013, by taking in mostly former Iron Curtain countries, were the embodiment of a Europe Whole and Free. After the plus jamais la guerre entre nous (the prevention of war as the initial rationale for integration) of the 1950s, the year 1989 added a second grand narrative to European integration: The irreversible end of Europe’s postwar partition, and its firm anchoring in the West. This went along with the recognition that the essence of the West, and the optimal pattern for successful societies, were liberal democracy and the market economy – i.e. political and economic freedom, and their mutual dependence. This narrative of 1989 is now in jeopardy.

    That is because the rift is not only about refugees and immigration. It is ultimately about the question of how we define Europe in the 21st century: Who do we want to be in 20 years? Will we be globalised, multi-ethnic and multi-religious, or closed, white and Christian? Are we defined more by (maybe all too dark) fears, or by (possibly too starry-eyed) hopes?  And on that backdrop, a pattern is emerging in which the two sides also disagree about European integration, social norms, and the question of the type of democracy we should live in. None of these conflicts is really new, but thanks to the spat over refugees they have consolidated into a broad disagreement.

    On Europe, one side advocates moving towards stronger competences for EU institutions (Parliament, Council, Commission) where it matters: bigger on the big things, smaller on the small things. Opposing this is a movement to rather re-nationalise central EU competences, or at least not allow any further transfer of powers to ‘Brussels’. On norms, we have, most prominently, the remarkable changes on LGBT rights in many member states – which are resisted by those who define them as West European moral imperialism. On democracy, we see a sharp division emerging between the proponents of liberal democracy, i.e. free elections plus checks and balances, independent media and strong civil society – and on the other hand, those of an ‘illiberal state’ where the majority rules but institutional limits to its power are considered as only helping the rich, the liberal elites or the political Left. The governments of Hungary and Poland are excellent examples of the latter tendency.

    Like all meaningful political conflict, this here is ultimately about reality and about time. It is about who has their feet firmly on the ground of facts, and who lives in Lalaland. And it is about who is stuck in the past, and who owns the future. Consequently, Central Europe’s ultraconservatives and Western Europe’s national populists are regularly accused of living in a 19th or early 20th century mindset, and in denial of global facts, demographic necessities etc. Whereas West European governments and liberal elites in Central Europe are seen as stuck in the hippie dreams of the late 20th century, and in denial of the dangers of ‘anything goes’, the coming ‘migration of peoples’ and the decline of the West. So the rift is deep indeed.

    But if such sizeable parts of governments, elites and public opinion cannot agree on a common narrative for Europe anymore, hence, if the narrative of 1989 is no longer valid, then Europe is in deep trouble. So how can we make a revamped European narrative majoritarian again? This will be a major task for the upcoming years. And I see it going to the Centre Right in a very broad definition – Liberals, Christian Democrats and moderate conservatives.

    It must contain the universality of Human Rights and our commitment to human dignity – this is not negotiable. But regaining control of our borders is equally legitimate and in itself not to be confused with xenophobia. And: Europe will not be able to absorb all the suffering of the world. Liberal democracy is a form of government and not to be confused with liberal policies, and checks and balances are in no way negotiable. On European integration, subsidiarity should become the ruling principle: that includes referring some competences to national or regional levels, but increasing EU-level integration in defence, security and immigration policies, for example, because there is simply no progress on these topics for individual countries. Economic success will be key to regaining political majorities and weakening the extremes. And that means opening up, not closing ourselves in. It means fiscal consolidation (this is where the Left is useless) and constant modernisation. In immigration policy, we need to face up to the fact that we need immigration but we have to be in a better position to decide who actually joins us, and we have to become much more self-confident about the values that immigrants must accept if they want to be successful. What counts in 20 years is not how white or how Christian we’ll be but whether we’ll still be an open society. Much to learn here from North America and other immigration societies around the globe. Last but not least, a renewed commitment to the West as a globally attractive model, is necessary as well as possible.

    All this is just a sketchy outline of what is needed. But what may well be the most important element in the new rift on what Europe is really all about, has to do with language and communication. Both sides, at least among governments and ruling political parties, must calm down and return to a more rational dialogue. No one in Europe should accuse someone else of belonging to a different century or living outside of reality. If we could achieve that in the upcoming months, it would be a good start.

    [This text was written for the SAC Château Béla Central European Strategic Forum 2015]

    Roland Freudenstein European Union Foreign Policy Migration

    Roland Freudenstein

    A Clash of Cultures ? Refugees and the new East-West divide in the EU


    17 Dec 2015

  • In a recent interview on the television show 60 Minutes, US President Barack Obama was questioned about the challenge that Russia’s move into Syria represented to his leadership. Obama brushed off the question, saying Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin was acting out of weakness and that the need to prop up President Assad was a sign that the Syrian dictator was losing his grip.

    More strikingly, the president added: ‘if you think that running your economy into the ground [referring to the Russian economy] and having to send troops in order to prop up your only ally is leadership, then we’ve got a different definition of leadership. My definition of leadership would be leading on climate change, an international accord that potentially we’ll get in Paris’ (60 Minutes 2015). This sense of priority might have surprised the audience, especially given the context of the ongoing Syrian tragedy.

    More than six years into office, observers are still at pains to define Obama’s foreign policy vision, the philosophy guiding his actions on the international stage. Is the president mostly motivated by domestic aims? To what extent can his foreign policy be defined by a doctrine, and how does it fit into American traditions? Despite the hope created by Obama’s election in 2008, European policymakers have often found the US president disengaged, even aloof.

    Early decisions such as the ‘reset’ with Russia, the decision to scrap the missile defence sites in Poland and the Czech Republic, or the long and largely unilateral Afghanistan review have fuelled this narrative. Understanding the president’s vision thus matters greatly to Europeans and transatlantic relations, not only as a way to engage Washington in Obama’s last year in office, but to gauge the potential for change and continuity after the end of his second term.

    Henry Kissinger, in Diplomacy, describes US foreign policy as oscillating between the traditions of its first two internationalist presidents, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, between a belief in the need to defend US national interests and balance power politics, and an almost messianic self-proclaimed mission to promote liberal democracy (Kissinger 1994). Where does Obama fit into this? He has alternately been called an ‘idealist’ (French 2014) and a ‘realist’ (Kaplan 2014). Some claim that he himself does not know and that it is more than time to choose (Drezner 2013).

    The concentrated and opaque nature of decision-making at the White House makes it difficult to deduce the foreign policy vision of a president from the views of his main cabinet members. While the G.W. Bush administration (especially in the first term) was famous for its turf battles between strong personalities such as Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleeza Rice, Dick Cheney and Colin Powell (Mann 2004), Obama seems firmly in charge of foreign policy, relying on a close-knit group of advisers.

    In the case of the conflict in Ukraine, for example, while Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Secretary of State John Kerry both signalled their support for the delivery of weaponry to Kyiv to sustain the Russian invasion, the president decided against this course of action, firmly set against any risk of escalation with Moscow.

    As a recent Politico article noted: ‘Obama’s West Wing inner circle serves as a brick wall against dissenting views. The president’s most senior advisers—including National Security Adviser Susan Rice and White House chief of staff Denis McDonough—reflect the president’s wariness of escalated U.S. action related to Syria or Russia and, officials fear, fail to push Obama to question his own deeply rooted assumptions’ (Crowley 2015). While Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN, is known for her work on the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities (encapsulated in her book A Problem from Hell), it is unlikely she has much say over decision-making today.

    Read the full FREE article published in the December 2015 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Benjamin Haddad Foreign Policy Leadership Transatlantic

    Benjamin Haddad

    Is there an Obama doctrine?


    14 Dec 2015

  • In these turbulent times, we very much need allies, partners and friends we can rely on and work with. Our partnerships have to be based on trust and a vision, but also on concrete cooperation—political, economic, military and cultural. The US and Europe have been natural partners from the start. Over time they have created a common space where the values of human dignity, freedom and responsibility, and solidarity are paramount. These values are now being threatened by independent groups of violent extremists, who are spreading terror worldwide, and by non-democratic regimes that are challenging our liberal-democratic order.

    The US and Europe need to continue to stand their ground and be strong together. We have to defend what we believe in and assist others who cannot defend themselves. As prime minister of Slovakia, I have personally experienced the success of transatlantic cooperation. The vision of transatlantic unity between the US and Western Europe has brought democracy and a sustainable economy to Central and Eastern Europe.

    The region has come a long way, but we can never sit still. I see unnerving developments in some of the neighbouring countries, and it reminds me that we need to continually reach higher: to keep liberal democracy as the basis of our societies, where non-governmental organisations and political parties can freely develop and play active roles.

    Still recovering from the economic crisis, Europe and the US need to push harder to get back to the standard of living they enjoyed before 2008. There can be no doubt that our common economic agenda is driven by the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Not only will TTIP bring us more jobs and economic growth, but it will also enable us to set high standards for products. And if it includes an investor–state dispute settlement clause, then—despite what the treaty’s opponents would have us believe—TTIP will strengthen the rule of law.

    This is because it will protect both states and companies by providing for the minimum standard of treatment required under international law. Therefore, it is rather unsettling that TTIP is facing so much hostility. As partners, the US and Europe need to proceed in the conviction that what we are doing will benefit both parties to the negotiations. It is important that our citizens should also be convinced of this. A strong communication strategy should be put in place to make TTIP opponents see the flaws in their reasoning.

    The US and the EU have sometimes approached foreign policy very differently, but their aim has always been the same: to secure a free and safe world. We need to determine how we can best cooperate with rising powers such as Russia, China and Iran. But if necessary, we must endeavour to compel them to respect human dignity and democracy. The West’s foreign policy goals have sometimes been frustrated by its energy needs.

    The US’s energy revolution and the EU’s policy of energy diversification may ease this tension a little. However, our growing energy independence cannot become a reason to retreat from the responsibilities we have regarding the citizens of countries that are rich in energy but lacking in freedom.

    This issue of the European View addresses the urgent problems outlined above. As we consider the transatlantic relationship, we should bear the following in mind: what challenges lie ahead, what can we learn from each other and what is the way forward?

    The transatlantic partnership is strong. We are partners with the same goal on the horizon: a whole and free world.This editorial was originally published in the December 2015 issue of the European View, Martens Centre’s policy journal. 

    Mikuláš Dzurinda EU-US Foreign Policy Leadership Transatlantic

    Mikuláš Dzurinda

    Revitalising transatlantic relations


    08 Dec 2015

  • In late July EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini went to Tehran. The visit was meant to show that the Islamic Republic was now on its way to mending fences with the EU and that a new, more peaceful chapter was to begin between Iran and its adversaries after the nuclear deal.

    The pictures from Mogherini’s meeting with the Iranian Foreign Secretary show a beaming Zarif and a veiled Mogherini. It is a picture that makes it abundantly clear that the nuclear deal, now also signed by the US Congress, is an all-out win for the Iranian regime. Iran has got everything that it wanted, and then some.

    The image also depicts the complete capitulation of the EU. By pandering to the very conservative interpretation of Islam that the Iranian regime follows, Mogherini, knowingly or not, sent out a message—easily understood in the region—that the EU had succumbed to Iran without question. No wonder Zarif is beaming happily.

    Read the full FREE article published in the December 2015 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Magnus Norell Defence Foreign Policy Middle East

    Magnus Norell

    A really bad deal: the Iran nuclear deal and its implications


    30 Nov 2015

  • If Greeks themselves do not trust their own government and their own banks with their money, it is difficult to expect the taxpayers of other countries to do so. Yet that is what the critics of the severity of the conditions imposed for the third Greek bailout seem to expect.

    The euro was not imposed on Greece. It was something that Greece joined of its own accord. The fact that the possibility of Greece leaving the euro was raised by Germany, has been greeted by some as dealing a blow to the euro, because it supposedly ended the notion of the euro being “irreversible”. But nothing in political life is irreversible, even though some things, like the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, did last a very long time indeed. “Irreversibility” was always a legal fiction, and fiction is not a sound basis for an economic policy. 

    The euro is a contingent compromise, where members trade some short term losses for greater long term gains. A euro, where rules were easily broken, would not endure. I agree with those who say that, eventually, some of the Greek debt will have to written off. That is both financially necessary and morally just. But that can only be contemplated when the Greek political and administrative system has reformed itself, and is capable of benefitting from a write off, and not looking at it as a precedent for a further write offs later on. We are not there yet. 

    The crucial difficulty seems to be that the Greek state does not work. The fact that Tsipras’ offer of reforms had to be crafted, not by Greek civil servants on their own, but with the help of French officials, tells its own story.

    Some complain that elements of the package involve intrusion on Greek “sovereignty”. But a state is only sovereign to the extent that it is capable of fulfilling the internal and international responsibilities of a state.  I believe Greece needs help in this regard, and it would be good if the World Bank, as well as the IMF, were involved in helping Greece reform its public administration.

    Recapitalising the Greek banks will be a major task. Interestingly the biggest national exposure to the Greek banks is  by banks in the UK. The UK is not in the euro, and is not contributing to the Greek bailout, which could be regarded as unfair.

    Some argue that the austerity, that Greece is going through to meet its international obligations, is damaging its economic growth prospects. In the short run, this is true. But fuelling temporary growth, by taking on even MORE debts, would not be an answer. That would weaken longer term growth prospects, because of the additional debt service it  would entail. This is the problem. The opponents of austerity never explain where the extra money would come from, other than from inflation and devaluation, and they solve nothing.

    The important way of  improving growth prospects is by  generating confidence. If people believe the future will be better, and can borrow money to invest in it, the economy will grow. With renewed confidence, some of the money that Greeks themselves have moved abroad will then come back to Greece. If the bailout terms are fully and quickly implemented, by both Greece and its creditors, that will restore confidence, especially if it is rewarded  by a prospect of some conditional and staged debt write offs in the future.

    Meanwhile, Greece is in close proximity to the biggest refugee crisis in world history, caused by the Syrian and Iraqi civil wars. More migrants are now arriving in Greece from the Middle East, than are arriving in Italy from North Africa. 65% of the arrivals in Greece are Syrian. Greece’s neighbour, Turkey, is already providing shelter at its own expense for 1.8 million Syrian refugees. Meanwhile most Western countries are reluctant to take in any refugees. Greece, because of its geographic position, does not have that luxury.

    The European Union should reorientate its Development Aid programmes to help middle income countries, like Greece, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, which are facing major refugee inflows, to cope with that huge burden. Some EU countries, like Germany and Sweden, are hosting many refugees. But most are keeping their heads down and doing little or nothing.

    There should be burden sharing, based on relative income and population. Countries that are receiving the largest proportionate number of refugees should be getting direct ongoing cash help from those that are receiving the least.

    John Bruton Crisis EU Member States Foreign Policy Human Rights Migration

    John Bruton

    Greece and the refugee crisis


    14 Jul 2015

  • On June 18th, the Ukrainian Parliament had the chance to decide on possible reforms of the legislation for local elections, which will be held next October. This strategic decision aims at strengthening decentralisation by introducing new election procedures and optimisation of local councils. As a result, the draft law has been accepted in the first reading, which parliament may then alter or amend. In doing so, however, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine has compromised its chance to implement a comprehensive, open, and inclusive reform of the law on local election.


    According to the current law, half of the municipal rayon (district) and oblast (province) councils are elected by the proportional system, and the second half is decided in single-member constituencies. This system has continuously proven to be a breeding ground for the misuse of administrative resources[i], corruption and numerous manipulations. If you include elected representatives of all levels it totals 240, 000 people.

    Mayors of large cities are currently elected by a ‘first past the post’ system allowing the use of political technologies like spreading votes among many candidates. An excellent example of this was the Kyiv election of 2006 when Leonid Chernovetskyi – famous for his singing, buying votes and corruption – was elected mayor:  there were two centrist candidates fighting for the same electorate and each received 20-25% of the vote. But the winner was a third candidate, representing a populist party, who received 30% of the vote.

    The coalition agreement of the majority in the Ukrainian Parliament, signed by five parties, contained electoral reform in the first half of 2015. It proposed the following:

    The purely proportional method will apply in parliamentary and local elections, where votes will be cast for individual candidates and not political parties (this may mean that constituency lists will have to be introduced and constituencies will have to be redrawn). The majority system will only be maintained in the case of elections to village and city district councils. Mayors of big cities will be elected by an absolute majority.

    Ukrainian parliamentarians had to choose between four proposals:

    Proposal #1 – Initiated by Yulia Tymoshenko and the Batkivshchyna party, but the proposal was withdrawn on the voting day.

    Proposal #2 – Drafted by Mykola Fedoruk from Popular Front.

    Proposal #3 – Introduced by Cross-factional group of deputies and experts of Reanimation Package of Reforms[ii].

    Proposal #4 – Proposed two hours before the deadline by some deputies from Liashko Radical Party and Petro Poroshenko Block.

    During the ranking voting the fourth proposal got the most support and was adopted in the first reading. According to the proposal, mayors of cities with more than 90, 000 inhabitants are elected with an absolute majority which means elections with two rounds for such communities. Another positive achievement is optimisation of total number of elective representatives in local communities.

    On the other hand it is not fully complying with the Coalition Agreement, in the way that it does not formalise a holding of local elections under a proportional voting system, and forbids self-nomination at some levels. In some way it creates quasi-majoritarian election system where parties assign candidates to districts. New system reintroduces bloc system, which is a step back according to experts of Reanimation package of reforms. Another negative change is the threshold of 5% for parties and 7% for blocs, which makes it almost impossible for new parties to rise. The authors call their proposal ‘an open-list proportional voting system’ – either by mistake or in order to manipulate public opinion. The results of election held under this system might discredit the election system, and the open-list proportional voting system, as well as the entire institute of local election. 

    The experts have already replied to this legislative initiative. They call for the inclusion of the following regulations into the draft law which is being finalized:

    – to ban or strictly limit paid-for political advertising on radio and television, as well as outdoor political advertising; 

    – to create conditions for due participation of the internally displaced persons in the election;

    – to make financing of election campaigns more transparent by publishing full financial reports both before and after election;  

    – to introduce effective mechanisms securing balanced representation of both women and men in the elective agencies;

    To conclude:

    The voted draft eliminates the existing parallel system for local council elections, which has been widely blamed for recurring irregularities in local elections and for a lack of representativeness in local councils. At the same time the law fails to introduce effective mechanisms to secure proper representation of women in the local councils, to make the funding of the election campaign more transparent, and to cut down the expenses of the parties and candidates for the election propaganda. The draft law includes no regulations to guarantee that internally displaced persons will have a possibility to vote at the election.

    In any case, a significant effort will be needed to ensure voters understand how the new system works and how to fill out the ballot papers. Extensive training of election commissioners and observers will also be needed to ensure smooth implementation of the new system. Moreover, these changes will help to discipline voters to be more responsible in local elections, because they are not taken seriously when compared to the general election. The understanding of this responsibility by local communities for those whom they are electing is a precondition for decentralisation. If Kyiv made this step towards the strengthening of local self-government, it will support the ranks of Poroshenko and Yatseniuk and their parties which were depleted after the elections in November. Thus, the adoption of this proposal with the amendments mentioned above would be the best possible, but certainly not the best imaginable, result.

    [i] The misuse of administrative resources is forcing state employees to vote for the ‘right’ candidate, using local budgets for election campaign etc.

    [ii] The Reanimation Package of Reforms is an initiative of public activists, experts, and journalists who have teamed up to facilitate the implementation of reforms in the country.

    Viktor Artemenko Democracy Eastern Europe EU-Russia Foreign Policy Ukraine

    Viktor Artemenko

    The battle for local democracy in Ukraine

    Blog - Ukraine

    30 Jun 2015

  • Upon leaving Europe for a research work with the Martens Centre, I have to admit I was mostly ruminating about the Islamic State. I came back with my thoughts focused on Iran and on how this country is now shaping events in Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, Syria, Iraq and even Yemen, under the umbrella of a well-intentioned nuclear deal.

    Iran fills a void left by the withdrawal of the Western powers from the Middle East but has enflamed the Sunni/Shia sectarian divide in the process. This is disastrous for the Middle East’s Muslims – UNHCR now counts 4 million refugees in the region. This is disastrous for minorities – Christians now represent less than 5% of the population, compared to 20% a century ago. This should be deeply worrying for Europe whose security is directly at stake.

          Christian wedding in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley

    The EU is served on the ground by dedicated delegations that have spent roughly €3.2 Billion since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011, “the largest aid package provided so far”, according to diplomats met in Amman. Those funds are vital to tend to the basic needs of affected populations. Yet is there a long term strategy of influence behind that money? Are we thinking about ways to alleviate the crisis? Western powers do conduct airstrikes, around 2500 so far, but Iran is facing the Islamic State on the ground and its Shia affiliates expect to reap benefits few Sunnis will accept.

    President Obama’s refusal to bomb Bashar Assad after he crossed the announced ‘red line’, by using chemical weapons in September 2013, was a major turning point. Western nations have lost a great deal of credibility. Some allies feel outright betrayed: Sunnis in Iraq, opposition fighters in Syria, Christians in Lebanon. Europe and the United States are losing friends because of their failure to decide on a strategy and stick to it. US Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent statement about the “necessity to speak to Assad” surprised no one when I visited Beirut: “Iranians know how to play the long game, Westerners lack the patience”, one interlocutor said.

    This long game is destabilising the region further though. The question for Europe is: how long can we let the pot go on boiling? Can we cope with a generation of poor and barely educated Syrians raised in refugee camps? How do we prevent the rise of a radical Sunni movement that war and misery breed and best embodied by the Islamic State today?

    The good news is that civil society in the Middle East has awoken. That is why we should not make the mistake of reducing our engagement out of political/security fears or because we feel lost in the complexity of the oriental chessboard. This Middle Eastern civil society needs our attention and every sign of indifference or cynicism we give – lately French MPs meeting Bashar Assad for instance – has lasting negative consequences.

    Europe should be prepared to take political risks and increase the effectiveness of its civilian-military response. And we should continue to engage our southern partners, develop new projects with them. The tide always turns for those who dare.

    Refugee camp in Lebanon

    Michael Benhamou Democracy Foreign Policy Middle East

    Michael Benhamou

    Engaging the Middle East: A travel diary in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon


    26 Mar 2015

  • The ongoing saga of negotiations with Iran over its nuclear programme continues this month.

    Sizeable elements, notably in the US, question the very basis of the negotiations while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent speech to the US Congress declared Iran the great enemy of our time. But the European Union remains committed to finding a diplomatic solution.

    Many deadlines have come and gone since negotiations began in early 2014. Many critics point to the lack of a substantive agreement after so many rounds of negotiations as evidence of failure. But whether or not a deal gets brokered over the next few weeks, the very continuation of these negotiations bears testament to the ongoing success of European diplomacy.

    After the deadline last November resulted in deadlock, Catherine Ashton, former EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy stood side by side with Muhammad Javad Zarif to announce that talks between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the international interlocutors known as the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) were to be extended for a further seven months. Though announcing no concrete result, the press conference was remarkable.

    There was to be no talk of aggression, none of the militarism that marked the Ahmedinejad era of Iranian politics. Rather, we saw an affirmation the commitment of both sides to find a diplomatic resolution.

    This transformation is the result of a wide array of factors: the inauguration of the Hassan Rouhani administration; the coalescence of Western and Iranian interests in opposition to the self-proclaimed ‘Islamic State’ in Iraq and Syria; and likely, the combined economic imperatives of the international sanction regime and imploding oil prices. And of course, the prioritisation of the issue by the US.

    However, one, often overlooked, factor was central in keeping Iran at the negotiating table and ensuring that diplomacy did not make way to confrontation: the role of the European Union as a diplomatic power and mediator. The devoted commitment of the EU to seeking a diplomatic solution is paying dividends. Its diplomacy with Iran marks one small victory of European diplomacy in the post-Lisbon Treaty era.

    When talks have stalled, some have called for an escalation of sanctions against Iran. Maybe they are right. Perhaps, negotiations with the Islamic Republic are futile. And certainly such an approach would be legitimate if the Iranian government pulled out of negotiations or even if its negotiation stance was one of obfuscation or obstruction. But this does not seem to be the case. No sources are claiming a deadlock, rather diplomacy is, far from atypically, taking longer to pay dividends than originally expected. Diplomacy with Iran is remarkable precisely because it has been so unremarkable.

    In such a context, calls for escalating sanctions are, somewhat understandably, viewed by Iran as akin to asking them to negotiate under threat. Such a strategy, rather than paving the way for a solution, seems likely to only encourage the pursuit of a nuclear programme as a source of Iranian national pride.

    Therefore, the resolute determination of the European Union to pursue a diplomatic solution is of immeasurable importance. Catherine Ashton, as EU lead negotiator with Iran, has never wavered from commitment to brokering a deal with Iran. While US-Iran relations still threaten to return to a conflict between “The Axis of Evil” and “The Great Satan” the EU has treated Iran as a legitimate negotiating partner and in doing so has helped ensure that they are one. The EU has emerged as a credible negotiator that Iran is willing to put its faith in and overcome its continued distrust for the West.

    European policy has been instrumental in committing the Rouhani administration to negotiations. The current government in Tehran is now utterly dependent on reaching a negotiated settlement with the P5+1. If Rouhani cannot deliver an agreement with some relief from international sanctions, it seems unlikely that his administration can survive long.

    Of course, Iran is unlikely to be a major ally of the West in the foreseeable future. Its confessional vision of the world order clashes fundamentally with liberal democratic conceptions of the international system. Iran’s long term support for various terrorist groups in its neighbourhood and its existential conflict with Israel further prevent any true alliance emerging.

    Nonetheless, it is now increasingly apparent that a convergence of Western and Iranian interests is emerging in the Middle East, at least in the short to medium term.

    While Iran has fomented regional disorder in the past, it is clear that the Rouhani administration recognises the danger of weak and/or failed states on its border. As such, the Islamic Republic has emerged as an important component of efforts to build stable state institutions in its neighbouring Iraq and Afghanistan. Iranian influence in Iraq is far from universally positive but without it, it is unlikely a coalition could have been established around Haider al-Abadi who was elected prime minister last July. Similarly, the personal intervention of Iranian foreign minister Muhammad Javad Zarif was instrumental in cobbling together a government in the fragile politics of Afghanistan.

    Most pertinently, however, is the joint threat that the self-proclaimed ‘Islamic State’ poses. In a fundamentalist interpretation of Sunni Islam, IS strives to ‘re-establish’ Muhammad’s caliphate and unite the world’s Muslim population into a united state, Dar al’Islam, in conflict with the world of war (read: infidel), Dar al’harb. To this end both the infidel West and apostate Shi’ia Iran are sworn enemies but geographical proximity amplifies the threat to the Islamic Republic. Although unwilling to follow US leadership and join international efforts against IS, Iran has joined the conflict against IS with a number of military interventions in Iraq. Some Iraqi politicians have even stated their belief that Iran is more committed to the fight than the West.

    As we enter 2015, the process of negotiation has been firmly established as the solution to international tensions arising from the Iranian pursuit of its nuclear programme and opportunities for strategic partnership are emerging. More importantly, a return to the confrontational politics of the Ahmedinejad era seems unlikely. True, it would likely be impossible to have arrived at this point without the efforts of the White House but similarly diplomatic progress is hard to conceive of with the Trojan efforts of the EU and Catherine Ashton in particular. The continuation of negotiations with Iran is evidence that the EU has an important role to play in international diplomacy.

    Eoin O’Driscoll Defence Foreign Policy Middle East Security

    Eoin O’Driscoll

    Devoted to diplomacy: the case of EU-Iran nuclear talks


    19 Mar 2015

  • With the increasing terror threat in Europe, even politicians from mainstream parties are beginning to toy with the idea of reintroducing national border checks inside the Schengen Area. This area consists of 26 European countries that have agreed to abolish internal border controls. ‘Schengen’ includes the so-called ‘compensatory measures’ that take into account the interests of the signatory governments and incorporate the Schengen Information System, better judicial cooperation, a common visa policy and controls at the external borders.

    Unfortunately, responding to the terror attacks in Paris in January 2015, certain politicians have called for national borders being gradually reintroduced. In some cases, policy proposals may just be using sloppy language; in other cases there is an intention to go back to the old days.

    For example, there has been talk of ‘strengthening of border security with targeted controls’. Under the current Schengen regime, national authorities are allowed to conduct routine police checks on their territory but are not allowed to undertake border controls, except for strictly limited periods of time. Executing police authority inside a member state is a country’s duty.  Imposing ‘targeted controls’ could mean a return to border checks, a highly questionable move. 

    There has also been talk about introducing ‘internal border checks’. The existing Schengen Border Code states that ‘internal borders may be crossed at any point without a border check on persons being carried out.’ Schengen rules are exactly about that, about NOT requesting travellers’ documentation on the internal borders. ‘Internal border checks’ would thus abolish the main pillar of Schengen. The complex architecture of Schengen rules would simply collapse – there would not be much ‘Schengen’ left.

    Another phrase that has appeared is ‘an intelligent use of the ‘Schengen internal control mechanism’. The problem is that there is no such thing as a Schengen internal control mechanism.’ If this were to mean a better sharing of data within the Schengen Information System or better judicial cooperation, that would help to catch suspected terrorists. But if this were to mean internal border checks, it would be a move contrary to the letter and spirit of the Lisbon Treaty.

    Schengen is not some ‘naïve’ project that has simply abolished internal borders controls. Schengen consists also of many measures which could help us in fighting terrorism. For example, police cooperation, judicial cooperation in criminal matters, control of firearms, guarding and policing the external border of the Schengen Area and a better operation of the Schengen Information System could all help in identifying and tracking suspects. All these activities can be made to operate better, without internal borders in Europe being reinstated. As a related point, including Romania and Bulgaria in the Schengen Area would help in tackling terrorism as the sophisticated internal Schengen rules would have to be applied by these countries.

    So rather than introducing new legislation, let us make better use of our existing rules and let us invite Romania and Bulgarian to join Schengen. That way we would do a better job in preventing further deaths in Europe. And if we come to a conclusion that the Schengen Border Code needs to be amended, preserving the legality of controls will be extremely important.

    It has been said many times before but it is worth repeating: Islamic jihad and other forms of terrorism have succeeded when they have made us curtail our rights and liberties. Let us not make the terrorists’ ‘job’ any easier.

    (with thanks to an anonymous reviewer)

    Vít Novotný European Union Extremism Foreign Policy Immigration

    Vít Novotný

    Europe’s Passport-Free Zone Needs to Remain Free


    25 Feb 2015

  • “Mantra” (Sanskrit मंत्र) means a sacred utterance… or group of words believed by some to have psychological and spiritual power. –  Wikipedia

    As 2014 is drawing to a close, let’s take a look at how the West has debated its reaction to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. With all the controversy, there is nevertheless a number of statements that more or less everybody can agree on, at least in Europe. I call them the four mantras of the Ukraine debate. I don’t claim they are false or mistaken. But the way they are formulated, none of them stands closer scrutiny, because they all are more or less massively beside the point.

    1. ‘The West has made mistakes, too’:

    Actually, the statement as such is what Americans call a no-brainer. Who doesn’t ever make mistakes? The question is: which were the mistakes? And here we get some interesting disagreement. One school claims that the West was too triumphant after the end of the Cold War, expanded NATO ignoring Russia’s fears, and crossed another Russian red line with its attempt to drag Ukraine into the West (thereby also forcing an unwanted choice upon the poor Ukrainians: Russia or us). This argument, or at least parts of it, has been made by many – probably in its most coherent form by the neo-realist U.S. pundit John Mearsheimer.

    The other school is best represented by the American journalist Anne Applebaum: If anything, the West has nurtured the illusion of a cooperative Russia modernising along Western lines for much too long. Even when those who know better (i.e. the Poles, the Balts and a few others) had warned their Western partners that it was an illusion. As Estonian President Toomas Ilves likes to say: Georgia in 2008 was the wake-up call but we’ve been hitting the snooze button ever since. From France’s sale of the Mistral assault ships to our slow reaction to Russia’s blatant attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in February 2014: It was our mistake not to challenge Russia much earlier and more decisively. We might actually have saved Ukraine, ourselves and the whole of Europe a lot of trouble.

    2. ‘We need to keep the channels for dialogue open’:

    Sure, talking always feels good. Some say that ‘as long as people talk, they don’t shoot!’ – Nice. The problem with this conventional wisdom of Western diplomacy is that by the time it is uttered, the shooting usually has been going on for some time – just not by NATO, the U.S. or the respective coalition of the willing. Because to talk it takes two, but to shoot it only takes one who has at least a Kalashnikov and the determination to use it. And as we have seen, the shooting in the Donbas can very well go on while the talking is being solemnly carried out in Geneva, Vienna, Paris or Minsk.

    It all boils down to the street thug techniques that Vladimir Putin learned as a teenager in the backyards of Leningrad, in what he still proudly calls his ‘street university’(look it up in Masha Gessen’s book). A good khuligan (=hooligan) first punches you in the nose, and then leaves you a choice: you can be unreasonable and escalate the situation, or you can be reasonable and work out a mutual compromise: You give him your wallet, and he will even smile at you again.

    So where does this leave us? Communication is good, but only if it serves a purpose and if it doesn’t keep us from calling a spade a spade, and from doing what needs to be done, such as broad-based economic sanctions. The West needs to have a position that is based on our core values, and back up this position with hard power, otherwise it’s pointless.

    3. ‘There is no military solution’:

    This one is really popular. From UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to Chancellor Angela Merkel, even to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, everyone agrees on this one. Again, there is nothing wrong with the sentence as such. Of course wars never solve anything. They never sort anything out (except for slavery in the US, the holocaust and a few dictators, as P.J. O’Rourke likes to point out). The trouble with Russia’s new cold war is that there is no quick solution to it, period. Ed Lucas from the Economist has pointed that out brilliantly.  As long as Putin wants it to drag on, it will continue, no matter what he signed. The fate of the Minsk agreement should have demonstrated that. What amazes me is that anyone in their right mind and not on the Kremlin’s payroll still believes that Mr Putin’s public statements, assurances in interviews, or even signatures, have any true meaning whatsoever.

    Now, instead of uttering banalities such as ‘There is no military solution’, the much more interesting question is: Can there be an improvement in the situation as long as Ukraine is militarily as hopelessly inferior to Russia as it is at the moment? As for me, the answer is a clear no. Ukraine, after a democratic revolution, has been wrongfully attacked by its neighbor who is now bullying the whole neighbourhood. To take Western military intervention off the table from the very beginning, was tactically questionable but may have been necessary to calm down public opinion in Europe and America. But that does not mean that the West, or at least individual countries, shouldn’t help Ukraine to at least partly redress the imbalance militarily. That goes from training to the delivery of non-lethal equipment to modern small arms and anti-tank and air defence weapons.

    The simple truth is that sanctions may not be enough to make Russia change course. The military price tag of Russia’s aggression counts: The more of those ‘vacationing volunteers’ come home in body bags, the more precarious Putin’s image will become at home, all Novorossiya talk notwithstanding. All this does not mean stability will return if and when military options are brought back to the table. But it means that the Ukrainian government will be able to talk and act with more self-confidence. Which should be a worthwhile goal, and would spur the domestic reform effort of Ukraine.

    4. ‘There is no stability against or without Russia’:

    This is another beauty. As if Putin’s Russia was interested in stability as we define it – or at least most of us do. Frankly speaking, I have no idea how people can consider a Europe with buffer zones and spheres of influence a stable place. I thought we’ve been through that for a few centuries. I cannot see why we should even endorse the idea that some countries which have the bad luck of being close to Russia, cannot freely choose their political system and alliances, and are somehow doomed to live in an authoritarian kleptocracy.

    So it all depends on which Russia we’re talking about. As Mikheil Saakashvili said in 2013: We will have stability in Europe when Russia becomes a normal nation state. Because at the moment, it isn’t (and hasn’t been for a long time). Instead, at least in its self-description, Russia is an empire and empires have no borders. As long as that is the case, there will be no stability. We’d better prepare for a long conflict with Putin’s Russia. It will have political, diplomatic, psychological, economic and military aspects. It will neither be all-out war nor a repetition of the Cold War. It will even still contain elements of cooperation. But it will only be over when there is a fundamental change in Moscow.

    If we really want a better future for the Ukrainians and the people in Eastern Europe (including Russians) and if we seriously aim at a Europe Whole and Free, we should go beyond the mantras. We need to shape up and win this. Otherwise, Mr Putin wins. And that would mean the end of NATO, the EU and Europe as we know it.

    Roland Freudenstein Democracy Eastern Europe EU-Russia European Union Foreign Policy Ukraine

    Roland Freudenstein

    Ukraine beyond the mantras

    Blog - Ukraine

    15 Dec 2014

  • Jana Hybášková has served as the Ambassador of the European Union in Iraq for almost four years. She speaks fluent Arabic and is highly familiar with the current situation in Iraq. When speaking about the conflict with the Islamic State, she points out the influential role played by Chechnya: “We confirmed that key flows of Islamic State arms, munitions and finance comes through Chechnya.”

    What type of conflict do we see in Iraq? Is it really a religious war?

    Religions plays a very important role, IS is instrumentalising Sunni Salafi Islam, which has vast potential for radicalisation. They’re worse than Al-Qaeda. But it’s much more than just a religious war, enforcing a sectarian type of religion. Organised crime, including the trafficking of women and children, selling human organs and illicit oil plays a major role in the Iraqi conflict. The antiquities market is similarly important. They use the experiences of Ba’ath military command and tactics and use the Caucasus Emirate as a model for their proto-state.

    Who are actually the people behind IS and who is their leader Abu-Bakr al Baghdadi?

    No one here knows the proper identity of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He definitely is not the man from the Youtube pictures from one of the Mosul mosques.  We only know, from certain privileged information, that from the very beginning he created a centralised leadership nucleus together with two other prominent Ba’ath leaders. That means that the old Ba’athist party is a significant presence in the creation and the structure of the Islamic state. The Chechnyan presence is also significant. This is not widely acknowledged in Europe but we have confirmed that key flows of Islamic State arms, munitions and finance comes through Chechnya. It is well known that there were contacts between the Chechnyan Islamist Dokka Umarov’s representatives and Iraqi insurgency groups during the winter Olympic Games in Sochi.

    Unfortunately, the Caucasus Emirate has served as a model for the Islamic State. So if we continue to label Islamic state as simply a terrorist group, we are missing the point and we are making a strategic mistake. We have to admit that they are state structures. It is not just a group of people who performing hit-and-run attacks, they are a group of people who put international advertisements seeking to hire top oil engineers and experts, they are a group of people who run a financial economy, who have ministries, who desperately try to provide nine millions of people with 24/7 electricity and who are able to generate quite substantial means from exporting oil. Unfortunately, Islamic state is much more than a terrorist group.

    Is the Islamic State structure now strong enough to survive the elimination of its current leadership?

    I think that the future is now being decided in Kobane. The Battle for Kobane is reminiscent of the Somme or Verdun. It is a place of no strategic importance but it has become a war of attrition consuming more and more Islamic State resources. The Battle for Kobane is reducing and degrading the military capacities of the Islamic State, forcing withdrawal from places such as Baiji or Zumar Zhoud, connecting Kurdistan and Sinjan, which are more significant strategically. Holding the Islamic State at Kobane is, therefore, likely more effective than airstrikes. Of course, airstrikes can be effective if used in conjunction with Iraqi security forces on the ground.  At the moment Iraqi security forces require major restructuring, training and changes in command structures. All this, however, will take a considerable amount of time.

    Does Islamic State, with all its brutality, have the support of the general population?

    We do not have very precise information about what is happening inside of the Islamic State. The brutality there is enormous. We have learned of Pol Pot style deportations of populations, families are divided, males and females are segregated, non-Sunni men are humiliated and sent to areas out of the key urban cities while women are enslaved. On the other hand, we have very clear information about some Sunni tribes trying to resist IS. Sadly I recently received information that the Abu-Nimer tribe that resisted IS was recently executed. The same fate is likely awaiting the Barawa family which is trying to protect the strategic Haditha town. There are victims not only among Christians and Yazidis but also among the Sunnis.

    There are around 1.8 million internally displaced people and refugees, around half a million people have no access to humanitarian assistance. They are in the deserts, the Kurdish mountains to the North and south of Kirkuk. In the North we have a very dramatic humanitarian crisis where we cannot reach around 200 000 Sunnis. Some Sunnis from the area around Kirkuk have now no other option than to return back to the Islamic State. This should be a serious warning for us. At the same time, as I have already said, IS is developing a state structure – it provides electricity and water to people, it runs ministries, shops and hospitals which wasn’t always the case under Maliki’s administration.

    You are talking about Sunni resistance. So the fight isn’t just between the Muslims and ‘the others’?

    The key enemies of the IS are the Shia, not the Christians or Yazidis. But the enemies of IS include also non-radical Sunnis. For instance the Kurds are predominantly Sunni but they are still on the other side of the barricade. IS is pushing a very strict type of Salafi Islam called the Raqqa law which bans sports; music; cigarettes; alcohol and forces women to stay at home. Many Sunnis are, on the contrary, quite liberal. But of course the position of their Sunni opposition is much better than that of Christians. The Yazidis are worst off, they are not ‘people of the Book’ and are considered worshippers of devil and therefore are targets for genocide and extermination.

    Who is buying all the illicit things like oil or women?

    I cannot comment on this, it is currently- being investigated by the United Nations.

    How many fighters does the Islamic State control? In a vast territory of 120 000 km2 with 9 million inhabitants, they have to resist many enemies: Kurds, the Syrian army, Western armies and others. How do they manage this?

    Estimates differ so much that I’m not going to say an exact number. I understand that for the Europeans the issue of foreign fighters is extremely important and highlighted but there are definitely much more foreign fighters coming from Arab and Islamic countries than from the European Union. I mean fighters from Tunisia, Libya, Morocco, and Algeria and of course Pakistan and Afghanistan but also a vast number of the Chechnyans and people from the Islamic component of the former States of Soviet Republic. The leader of the Islamic State of Chechnya Dokka Umarov offers the IS a great support.

    Is IS a threat for the European Union? Do they intend to commit terrorist attacks in Europe as they say in their online magazine Dabiq?

    I don’t think that at this very moment they will commit an attack in Europe. They are now concentrating on building the state, on building their internal structure and strengthening internal statehood. How this would in long-term reflect European security is of course a big question. However, European concern should be focused on the 50 million refugees and displaced in the world. More than 2.5 million refugees are in the vicinity of Europe, most of them coming from Iraq and Syria. This refugee crisis in the immediate vicinity of Europe cannot stay unnoticed. It will definitely influence Europe economically but also will have security repercussions.

    What should Europe do now? 

    Some Member States are offering military support, but the issue is much broader. The current coalition has sixty eight states that offer a wide range of supports. However, I think we could be better organized through EU military staff, especially on the information side. I would actually create an EU information fusion centre on the military activities of the Member State but this must be done by the Member States. The European External Action Service cannot play any role in this beyond suggestion. I’m very grateful to Germany that just donated 82 million dollars for humanitarian assistance to Iraq which is an enormous amount. I’m also happy with the support of France, UK, Italy, Ireland, Denmark and Sweden. Unfortunately I must be critical of the United Nations structures which are quite slow.

    We also need to push the new Iraqi leadership, the government lead by the Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, towards reconciliation, to bring back justice, to approve a law on federal courts and a provincial law on federalisation. The Sunnis felt abused in Iraq during Nuri al-Maliki’s government, this must change. We must also support a dialogue about the oil revenue sharing between the Kurds and the rest of Iraq in order to bring Kurds back to the table and to empower much better cooperation and coordination between the Kurdish Peshmerga forces and the Iraqi security forces.

    Was this our mistake during Nuri al-Maliki government, that we didn’t pressure him enough to make the necessary reforms?

    Yes, we should have exercised much stronger international pressure so that he would lead an inclusive government and perform the necessary reforms. But we all turned mainly to the United States. Unfortunately, Obama decided in 2011 to evaporate the US presence in Iraq almost overnight. The word ‘evaporate’ describes this decision, because he didn’t negotiate any kind of long-term post-presence strategy. That was the wrong decision and we are paying the price for it now. Maliki was denying all the legitimate needs of the Sunni population, he didn’t issue amnesty for tens of thousands of illegally detained Sunni hostages, he abused counterterrorism laws and he couldn’t ensure basic services to the province of Anbar.

    When the Sunni population in Anbar started to demonstrate, the predominantly Shiite security forces massacred them in Hawija. This Hawija massacre was never properly investigated. So Sunnis were asking and asking the Iraqi government for protection, health, education and energy services for more than fourteen months and none came for them, on the contrary they had to face security oppression from the Shia militias. So they turned for protection to the Syrian jihadist group Al-Nusra, the former high level representatives of the Iraqi Ba’ath party and to the Chechnyan leaders. 

    How long can the conflict last?

    It will be a long-term engagement. I don’t see it as a matter of weeks or months.

    Can Iraq as a state hold together?

    After being here for three and a half years I’m a strong believer in the country. The chance still exists but we need a lot of work, energy and money. The future of the whole region is questionable.

    Interviewed by Vladka Vojtiskova, edited by Eoin O’Driscoll.

    Jana Hybášková serves as the Ambassador of the European Union in Iraq (since 2011). She is a Czech politician and diplomat; from 2004 to 2009 she was a Member of the European Parliament for the European People’s Party. She graduated in Arabic at Charles University in Prague, she was Ambassador of the Czech Republic to Slovenia, Qatar and Kuwait.

    Foreign Policy Islam Religion Security

    Islamic State in Iraq is inspired by Chechnyan Emirate

    Other News

    25 Nov 2014

  • As Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine finalise association and free trade (DCFTA) agreements with Europe today (27 June), these Eastern Partners, together with the EU, are proving that while geography is destiny, history does not have to be so.

    The EU’s Eastern Partnership policy is the bridge which connects Europe to countries which were left out of the cycle of peaceful development brought to post-WWII by the European project.

    Even as the voice of increased scepticism towards the EU rang loud and clear in the latest European elections, the citizens of these advanced Eastern partners still believe the European project offers them the best way forward.

    They have proven ready to pay a heavy price for their European choice, in the knowledge that no sacrifice is too great for the sake of freedom.

    The EU and its three Eastern Partners have come to this point against all odds. Russia failed to force these countries, considered to belong to its “privileged sphere of influence,” to give up on Europe in favour of joining the Eurasian Economic Union.

    Neither political and economic pressure, nor direct military intervention, have managed to compete with Europe’s soft power.

    While the agreements signed today will not automatically force open the doors to European accession, they are paving a way towards it. The road ahead, however, is a difficult one.

    The immediate challenges will be to implement the agreements and to withstand continued Russian pressure.

    The Kremlin is unlikely to bury the hatchet. The warnings from Russia have been crystal clear all along, most recently with Russiaan foreign minister Sergei Lavrov declaring that his country will take the necessary “countermeasures” in response to the EU accords.

    If history is any point of reference, the Russian response might defy both the letter and the spirit of international law.

    Additional Russian economic pressure can still have an impact on the economies of all three Eastern partners. Our voters have high expectations for the benefits of the agreements, but the positive socio-economic impact of the DCFTAs will not come immediately.

    Knowing full well the value of predictability and stability for the international investors which these DCFTAs ought to attract to the signatory countries, Russia is unlikely to abandon its chosen policy of exporting instability.

    As European integration will not deliver immediate prosperity, the Kremlin’s likely tactic is to foster growing disappointment of the public in its European choice.

    The role of the Church

    By offering to Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine the way forward towards a more democratic, secure and prosperous future, the EU still has a much stronger hold on the hearts and minds of their citizens than Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

    But the future support of our voters cannot be taken for granted. Further success of the Eastern Partnership will depend on securing continued support for democracy, as well as for the European choice of the public in these countries.

    In the short term, helping Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine to cope with the implementation of the DCFTAs the and speedy introduction of visa-free travel for Georgia and Ukraine will be instrumental.

    As the prospect of Nato membership looks less and less likely for any of the Eastern partners, enhancing the framework of co-operation between them and the EU in terms of security will be another important challenge.

    A broad engagement with the citizens, supporting democracy and building solid constituencies for Europe, reaching out to the most influential opinion-makers in these countries, will also be key to success.

    In some cases, the potential opinion-makers might be outside of the regular realm of civil society and include influential religious organisations or figures. Religion has started playing an increasingly important role in Russia’s current confrontation with the West. The authority wielded by the religious establishment in some Eastern partners is a sign of weak civil society and needs to be addressed in a medium and long term prospective.

    In the immediate future, the Church will continue playing an important role in determining the public attitudes in Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. The EU needs to find ways to engage with the relevant players to counter Russian influence.

    The successful transformation of the three advanced Eastern Partners can be managed only through a European policy which has clearly defined objectives.

    Next year, the Riga Eastern Partnership Summit should offer concrete deliverables for each of these countries, aiming at enhanced contractual relations with the EU. Most importantly, it should deliver a membership prospective in the long term and the chance to join a Common Economic Area in the immediate future.

    Today marks yet another important achievement of the EU’s transformative power, but Europe needs to be ready for the challenges ahead.

    Injecting a new momentum into the Eastern Partnership Initiative, building on today’s success, will rectify the historical injustice which deprived the people of the Eastern Partnership countries of the chance to develop as democratic and prosperous societies for almost a century.

    But it will also send an important message to the increasingly sceptical European voters about the magnetic pull of the European project for those, who, so far, have been left out of it.

    [Originally published as a guest editorial in EUobserver: http://euobserver.com/opinion/124781 ]

    Salome Samadashvili Democracy Eastern Europe Enlargement EU-Russia Foreign Policy

    Salome Samadashvili

    The magnetic pull of Europe’s soft power


    30 Jun 2014

  • Russia’s tactics in annexing Crimea and destabilising Ukraine have torn up the assumptions, on which the relationship between the West and Russia had been based since the end of the Second World War.

    Forcible annexations of neighbouring territory, a reality in the 1930’s, are now a reality again, thanks to what has happened in Crimea.

    Power politics, and spheres of influence of great power, have replaced international law and respect for sovereignty, as the motive forces of European security.

    As recently as 1994, EU countries, including Britain and France, reached an international agreement with Russia guaranteeing Ukraine’s frontiers, in return for the non trivial matter of Ukraine abandoning its nuclear weapons, and thereby weakening its deterrent security capacity in an important way. With the annexation of Crimea, that agreement has now been put in the bin.

    Already, the EU is visibly divided on how to respond, even though international law on this matter is clear.

    On the 1 August 1975, the then Irish Taoiseach, Liam Cosgrave was one of the signatories of the Helsinki Final act governing relations between European states. He signed along the United States, all other European countries (except Albania), and the USSR, which at the time encompassed both Russia and Ukraine.

    Article one of the Helsinki Final Act said that the signatory states would “respect each other’s sovereign equality, juridical equality and territorial integrity”, and that they would refrain from the “use of force or the threat of the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state”.

    As a small militarily neutral European state, Ireland has a greater interest, even than has a state which enjoys the comfort of a military alliance, in ensuring that these clear interstate principles are respected.

    As Taoiseach, I happened to have been invited to address the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on the very day the Assembly was voting to admit the Russian Federation to membership of the Council. I spoke in favour of Russian accession. Russia became a member on 28 February 1996. The Council of Europe is the source of a dense and comprehensive network of treaties on many topics, including human rights. The Council of Europe, and its Treaties, only have meaning to the extent that its members are willing to abide by international law.

    The European Union also rests on the foundation of respect for international law. The EU only EXISTS because there is an assumption that international Treaties will be respected in ALL circumstances. The EU has no force to govern its own members beyond the force of international law in the form of EU Treaties. The European Court of Justice interprets these Treaties and its rulings are accepted by all EU states.

    Dividing the EU has been a long standing Russian goal, and President Putin’s aggressive tactics appear to be succeeding in the goal of dividing the EU, in a way that previous Russian efforts have failed. At one end of the spectrum, countries like Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Spain, Italy and Hungary are relatively accommodative towards what Russia is doing, while others, like Lithuania, Poland, Estonia and Latvia are alarmed and looking for resolute action. The bigger EU states are, painfully and unsuccessfully, trying to balance commercial interests against professed principles

    The talks in Geneva yesterday have had two important tactical outcomes, the fact that Russia appeared to do business with the new Ukrainian authorities at all, and that it agreed to a request to all armed groups to desist from forcibly occupying official buildings. This will presumably apply equally to the Maidan protesters in Kiev as to the pro Russian protesters in eastern Ukraine. But as Russia does not accept any responsibility for the pro Russian protesters inside Ukraine, Russia will be able to wash its hands of responsibility if the occupations continue.

    The key test will be whether the Presidential elections take place peaceably and fairly in May, and whether outside election observers are allowed to do their work.

    Putin has shown that he is capable of moving fast, and of changing direction unexpectedly to suit the needs of the moment, while Europe is still laboriously scratching its head.

    As 28 nations, the EU will never be able to move with the dexterity of an autocracy like Russia, but if it is not to have its policies dictated in the Kremlin, as a result Russian pressure on energy supplies, it needs to make a radical change in its own energy policies. It needs to build a proper energy union in Europe, independent of Russia, with complete inter connection of its energy distribution grids. That will require a lot of investment, and the diversion of funds from current consumption. But a long term decision like this would create a new momentum with which Russia could not ignore.

    John Bruton EU-Russia Foreign Policy Security

    John Bruton

    Putin is splitting up the EU, and tearing up Europe’s post war security order


    18 Apr 2014

  • The chessboard has become the metaphor of choice in the debate about Russia’s aggression. For more than a month now, our condition humaine can be aptly described as ‘waiting for Putin’s next move’ [http://ces.tc/1gsEU2b]. On a more abstract level, this is reflected by the inflationary use of the term geopolitics. Especially among conservatives, we hear appeals that the West, and especially the ‘post-modern’ European Union, has to learn hardcore geostrategy. But on the Left as well, it is fashionable to frame the conflict as an imperial struggle between the West and Russia over a Ukraine which is, in itself, allegedly the embodiment of an East-West split. Geopolitics is not mentioned, but clearly implied. Now, this is how Wikipedia [http://ces.tc/1fQK8oZ] defines the term: ‘… a method of foreign policy [http://ces.tc/1kwRod1] analysis which seeks to understand, explain, and predict international political behaviour primarily in terms of geographical variables.’ Or, as Napoleon put it more bluntly: ‘La géographie, c’est le destin des peuples’.

    I beg to differ. Because if that was true, then neither Ukraine nor Georgia, neither Belarus nor Kazakhstan, would ever have the chance to be free countries and choose their alliances, as long as Russia remains as big as it is. Needless to say, this perspective very much suits the Kremlin view in which NATO enlargement (and increasingly also EU enlargement or even association) to Russia’s borders represents a hostile act because they penetrate Russia’s sphere of ‘privileged interest’.

    Zoom in on the Euromaidan and it’s easy to see that the geopolitical perspective is profoundly mistaken. What is it that hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians took to the streets for? For what were many of them risking their careers, their health, their personal freedom and their lives – and about 100 actually lost their lives. Was that for this or that empire? For a direction on the compass? Definitely not! What these Ukrainians wanted was something ultimately very simple: a decent future in a halfway modern state, without rampant corruption, with freedom of expression and a fairly functional justice system, and the ability to democratically choose its alliances. Or, as Anne Applebaum [http://ces.tc/Pv2NA2] put it: ‘this conflict pits Ukrainians (both Russian- and Ukrainian-speaking) who want to live in a “European” democracy with human rights and the rule of law, against Ukrainians (also both Russian- and Ukrainian-speaking) — who support an undemocratic, oligarchic capitalist regime that is politically and economically dependent on Russia.’ That is not geopolitics. That is a struggle of political systems. Incidentally, this also puts the alleged conflict between Western and Eastern Ukraine into perspective.

    In fact, even Putin and the Russian power elite seem to have at least enriched their erstwhile purely geopolitical narrative with an increasingly comprehensive Eurasian ideology [http://ces.tc/1pYFr17] that casts itself as a grand alternative to the West – although admittedly on clay feet, as far as stringency and philosophical underpinnings are concerned. Nationalism and – increasingly – ‘traditional values’ are blended into imperial rhetoric by the Kremlin and its ideologues. They believe liberal democracy is finished. Hence, like all really important conflicts between political models, this one is ultimately about which one owns the future and which one belongs to the past.

    This is actually good news for the EU. Its soft power finds traction with the people of Eastern Europe – or, at least, with their most dynamic parts, including Russians, by the way. But this will only work under four conditions: firstly, for the EU’s soft power to be effective, it has to be backed up by NATO’s hard power – both to deter further aggression and to reassure the allies. That requires political resolve. Secondly, the EU has to be serious about answering to the aspirations of the people who want to live in ‘European’ countries. That requires short term help as well as a long term perspective – which must, in the end, include membership. All this will be a hard sell inside the EU. Thirdly, the West will have to reinvent itself, both in terms of a new transatlantic bond, and in terms of the West Europeans taking the Central and East Europeans more seriously. Fourthly and maybe most importantly, this conflict with Putin’s Russia has to be seen for what it is: a political struggle not identical to, but with a similar intensity as the Cold War. And just like the systemic conflict between 1945 and 1989, this one is winnable.

    Roland Freudenstein Democracy EU-Russia Foreign Policy Ukraine

    Roland Freudenstein

    It’s not geopolitics, stupid!

    Blog - Ukraine

    07 Apr 2014

  • At the Election Congress of the European People’s Party (EPP) in Dublin, EPP affiliated leaders from Eastern Partnership countries Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan discussed the situation in Ukraine and its wider implication for Europe’s Eastern Neighbourhood during a panel organised by the Centre for European Studies (CES), the political foundation and official think tank of the European People’s Party (EPP).

    In his opening remarks, CES President and former Prime Minister of Slovakia, Mikuláš Dzurinda kicked off the panel by paying tribute to Ukrainian citizens for making huge sacrifices for democracy. Alexander Stubb, Minister for European Affairs and Foreign Trade of Finland, emphasised that “money is the best pacifier”, as demonstrated by the reaction of the markets in Russia in the recent days. The European Union needs to act firmly to secure Ukraine’s European future and, in this context, the Association Agreement and an EU visa policy towards Ukraine remain essential.

    Leonid Gozman, President of the Union of Right Forces in Russia, pleaded for the strengthening of democratic forces in Russia, by saying: “Let me make it clear that thousands of Russians do believe that Russia committed an act of aggression in Ukraine. Crimea is the worst action taken by my country since the invasion of Czechoslovakia.”

    Speakers moved on to analyse ways of dealing with Russia in light of the lessons learned from the Ukrainian crisis. Elmar Brok, member of the European Parliament, emphasised that a comprehensive solution for Ukraine requires a more coordinated European policy and a united Western front towards Russia. According to the International Republican Institute Eurasia Regional Director, Stephen Nix, channels of communication with Russia should be kept open, which does not necessarily exclude sanctions against Russia, as US policy shows.

    The panel concluded with a discussion on the lessons learned and consequences of the Ukrainian crisis on the wider EU Eastern Neighbourhood. CES Visiting Fellow and former Head of Georgia’s Mission to the EU Ambassador Salome Samadashvili highlighted the fact that the Cold War ended without a settlement and that Russia is currently taking advantage of the lack of clear terms of engagement in the region. Yusif Bagirzade, Chairman of the National Independence Party of Azerbaijan, declared: “The Ukrainian crisis should serve as an incentive for the EU to offer real opportunities to Moldova and Georgia before similar crises erupt there.”

    Speakers agreed that in the long run, the EU will have to strengthen its Eastern Partnership Initiative and address civil society (which desires modernisation and stronger ties to the EU) more than governments (which resist that).

    Defence Democracy EU-Russia Foreign Policy

    Eastern Partnership leaders discuss crisis in Ukraine during debate at EPP Congress in Dublin

    Other News

    07 Mar 2014

  • Europe is strong on soft power. An integrated civil society can exert unified influence beyond its borders. European civil society, while increasingly integrated, benefits from being free from the homogenising forces of a fully developed political framework. It is able to establish flexible networks, links and communication channels, which combine the global power of its media, the brand appeal of its lifestyle industries and the diverse landscape of its many NGOs and political organisations. While largely invisible and diffuse, tireless interactions between civil societies help make the European Union a powerful global actor.

    But soft power is limited, especially when it not supported by traditional foreign policy tools. First, it works much better in periods of peace than in emergencies. Second, it is naturally unstable, disorganised and scattered. It is difficult or impossible to use soft power to bring about specific outcomes.

    The paradox of European soft power is that it seems to work much better outside than within the borders of the Union. By this I mean that it is often much easier for European civil society to exert a direct influence over civil societies in other parts of the world than to shape European policies and institutions. This may actually be the reason behind the global strength of European civil society. Its agents know that their best hope is to establish direct links across borders. They feel pressed to do so by the relative lack of an established political channel.

    My opinion, however, is that this absence poses fundamental problems for Europe and this will have to be addressed. Obstacles to a more direct form of communication and influence between European civil society and EU political institutions are a great source of weakness. On the one hand, EU institutions will suffer from discontinuities for as long as they cannot receive some more direct form of support from European civil society. On the other, social and economic actors in Europe will increasingly feel the need for more traditional tools of foreign and security policy in order to adequately protect their interests. The European Neighbourhood Policy and Maritime Security Policy are two examples of this lack of political integration.

    The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) is based on the Union’s own experience of economic integration. This “size fits all” approach is difficult to implement in light of a changing global environment; deprived of a deeper kind of democratic accountability, the ENP is fated to remain excessively legalistic, technocratic, and almost exclusively focused on long-term engagement. Stefan Lehne, among others, has argued that the next stage of the ENP should be more political and incorporate instruments for short-term impact. The abilities to establish distinctions and to act swiftly are properties of political power.

    Similarly, the EU should reassess its Maritime Security Strategy in view of on-going changes to the maritime environment, which challenge its economic interests. International trade is largely affected by interconnected production chains but also non-state actors like pirates and terrorist networks. Rising economic powers will no doubt question the limits of their territorial waters, while deep-see mining is becoming more and more feasible and economically attractive.

    What we have here are two ways of looking at the same problem. The ENP has suffered from the fact that the links now existing between European civil society and EU institutions are not strong enough for higher levels of democratic legitimacy. The European Security Strategy is a good example of how European civil society will quickly need stronger political instruments to ensure that its economic interests are adequately pursued and protected.

    In the coming months, European policy makers will have to think hard about the best ways to start invigorating these links, so that European soft power – the network power of civil society – can work as well inside our borders as it does outside them.

    [Summary of a speech given at a conference entitled “Is Europe Still a Global Player?” at the EU House in Nicosia, Cyprus on 26th February 2014].


    Timo Behr, et al., “Maritime Security in a Multipolar World: Towards an EU Strategy for the Maritime Commons”, The Finnish Institute of International Affairs, May 2013. Available at: http://www.ui.se/eng/upl/files/91707.pdf

    Stefan Lehne, “Time to Reset European Neighborhood Policy”, Carnegie Europe, February 2014. Available at: http://carnegieeurope.eu/2014/02/04/time-to-reset-european-neighborhood-…

    Jan Techau, “How to Breathe New Life Into the European External Action Service”, Carnegie Europe, 7 January 2014. Available at: http://carnegieeurope.eu/strategiceurope/?fa=54102

    Susi Dennison, et al., “Why Europe Needs A New Global Strategy”, European Council on Foreign Relations, October 2013. Available at: http://ecfr.eu/page/-/ECFR90_STRATEGY_BRIEF_AW.pdf

    Bruno Maçães European Union Foreign Policy

    Bruno Maçães

    The Paradox of European Soft Power


    05 Mar 2014

  • Recent months have seen rather little enthusiasm from security experts regarding the upcoming Defence Summit on 19 December. It seems as if despite the pressing issue of increasing security challenges around the EU, no vital decisions are expected to be made when EU leaders will meet this week.

    And this although at the beginning experts and politicians were thrilled at the prospect of having a summit that mainly focuses on defence issues with the aim to push member states out of their national defence policy closets. The latest report by the European External Action Service (EEAS) on CSDP in October 2013 outlines ambitious plans and ideas to improve the European defence system that have been on the table for years. The question is, will states move beyond official statements and promises?

    Certainly, the pre-Christmas summit lays the ground for the European Council to press ahead with reforms in the areas of operational effectiveness, defence capabilities and the strengthening of Europe’s defence industry. Issues to be dealt with are the reinforcement of the capabilities of the European Defence Agency (EDA), avoiding duplications between NATO and the EU and concrete steps to prevent uncoordinated national budget cuts by member states. Some Brussels insiders, however, fear that discussions on the NSA surveillance affair and calls from southern European countries to tackle illegal immigration at Europe’s external borders could attract most of the attention at the summit.

    Notwithstanding these concerns, some aspects should definitely be discussed properly at this summit:

    First, indeed, since the ratification of the Code of Conduct of Pooling & Sharing initiatives in by EU Defence Ministers just a year ago, some member states have already made a remarkable effort to harmonise their military capabilities. Take for instance the Netherlands and Belgium, who are conducting coordinated naval training and logistics. Nevertheless, the fact that any naval missions abroad still remain in the hands of each member state has been rightly criticised by senior military officials. We definitely need more investigation in this matter.
    Pooling & Sharing initiatives have partly been implemented, as for instance in areas of satellite communication, and this testifies a positive trend in this regard.
    But again, fragmented governmental satellite communication systems co-exist. The same applies to EU-wide cooperation in research and technology on cyber defence.

    Second, recent joint initiatives on air-to-air refuelling (AAR) by Italy, France and Sweden in September are indeed crucial steps to improve Europe’s military capacities. Nevertheless, cooperation on AAR should be further developed to eventually establish a European multinational multirole tankers fleet.

    Third, again the EU should grab the opportunity at this gathering to advertise the increasing role of the European Defence Agency (EDA) in matters of security and defence policy, established to better coordinate member states’ activities in technology, research and procurement. In particular, EDA’s particular capacities and skills to encourage more consultation by EU nations with the agency are of importance.

    Fourth, states complaining of high defence expenditures should use the summit to advocate the introduction of a European Defence Review, to get an idea of what Europe’s national military capabilities are. In addition, Europe requires a serious debate on responsibility and effectiveness when it comes to the deployment of EU battle groups.

    Fifth, the provision of a fair and effective European defence market, offering also SMEs the opportunity to have a share of the production, should be high on the agenda.
    It is understandable that in times of financial crisis member states are obliged to reduce their defence spending.

    While it is always debatable whether to engage in any military operation with our partners, capacities, skills and levels of cooperation need to be developed to the extent that we are able to do so if necessary. Some EU states need a wake-up call at this defence summit to realise that more cooperation on the EU level actually means investing less and gaining more.

    Let’s face it, our continent cannot afford to lag behind in defence capabilities, given an increase in unpredictable security issues, in particular at Europe’s southern borders, accompanied by a gradual strategic shift of US interest to the Asia Pacific region.

    Benjamin Tedla Hecker Defence Foreign Policy Leadership Security

    Benjamin Tedla Hecker

    Political will required to achieve concrete results during today’s Defence Summit


    18 Dec 2013

  • A decade has passed since the colour revolutions ushered in a new wave of democratisation into some countries of the former USSR.

    Later this week the capital of another former Soviet republic, Lithuania, an inspirational model for the other Newly Independent States emerging from the ruins of the “evil empire,” will host what was hoped to be a historical summit of the Eastern Partnership Initiative. The Initiative encompasses six former Soviet republics with the overarching goal of strengthening the political and economic ties between them and the EU. An ambitious action-plan, or “Roadmap to Vilnius,” envisioned cementing the European future of the most advanced eastern partners at this milestone event.

    Sadly the outcome of Vilnius summit will be falling short of these high expectations. Following the decision of Armenia to abandon the path towards the European integration and consider joining the Russian led Eurasian Customs Union, another partner, Ukraine has also refused to sign the association and free trade agreements in Vilnius, leading to mass public protests and deepened political confrontation in the country, the outcome of which is yet to be seen.

    Georgia and Moldova are now set to be the “stars” of the Vilnius summit, initialing association and free trade agreements with the EU. This will be an important step forward for both countries. However, the game is far from over.

    The declining economic performance of Georgia under its new government, as well as the concerns about selective justice it applies against political opponents, rampant corruption and the volatile domestic political scene in Moldova, alongside the ongoing security challenges posed by unresolved conflicts, all create a fertile ground for impeding the progress of the two champions of the Eastern Partnership in the nearest future.

    Four years since the inception of the Eastern Partnership initiative it is both timely as well as necessary to ask, why has this EU policy managed to deliver more in some partner countries than in the others?

    Looking at the political, economic and security factors, it is clear that the level of democratic development, the degree of economic dependency on Russia and the nature of the security concerns facing individual partners, all have played their pivotal role in determining respective successes and failures achieved by the Eastern Partnership Initiative vis-a-vis them.

    As witnessed most recently in my own country, Georgia, free and fair elections which resulted in the first democratic transfer of power, were largely made possible due to the commitment of the governing elites to the European future of the country. The elections, so far, have not altered the fiercely pro-Western foreign policy orientation molded by the government led by former president Mikhail Saakashvili. As long as democracy and the commitment of the Georgian voters to the European choice survive, it seems that the country will remain safely on the EU path.

    A messy, but still democratic process in Moldova, for reasons similar to the ones in Georgia, has also managed to take the country forward towards Europe.

    The entrenched political interests of the governing elites in Belarus, Azerbaijan and Ukraine, however, despite the respective differences in the quality of the democratic development of these countries, have been the decisive factor for failure of the Eastern Partnership Initiative to achieve the desired progress there.

    As the examples of Armenia and Ukraine also clearly show, strong economic ties with Russia pose a serious threat to the European choice of both the governing elites and the voters amongst the Eastern partners, as do the concerns with respect to the potential security threats and dependency on Russian military assistance.

    In this light, what does the future of the Eastern Partnership look like following Vilnius?

    The Russian pressure on these countries is likely to increase – as of spring of next year, Russia’s current vanity project, the Sochi Olympics – will be a thing of the past. It is therefore probable that the second, strategically even more important and ambitious project – the Eurasian Union – will be given full attention by the Russian leadership. While the viability of this project still remains uncertain, its potential for undermining the EU’s interests in the region, in light of the recent developments, can no longer be ignored. In the months and years to come, Russian policy towards the countries in its shared neighborhood with the EU will be multifaceted.

    Russia will try to agree on deals behind the closed doors with the leadership of those countries where lack of democracy makes it possible to ignore the voters. In the countries where a still nascent but functioning democratic process makes it difficult to discount public opinion, such as Georgia for example, Russia will continue wielding economic and soft power tools to thwart support of voters away from the European future. Russia will also likely deepen security concerns where it can by supporting instability.

    What will be the response of the European Union to this increasingly assertive role of Russia? Will it stand up for its strategic interests in the region or will it retreat? Clearly, if the EU is serious about its commitment to the region, after Vilnius it will need to devote substantial intellectual and financial resources to rethinking the policies directed at supporting democracy, economic development and security of its Eastern neighbors.

    Five years ago, the disastrous war between my country and Russia served as an impetus for some serious policy thinking in Brussels and other European capitals on the way to stabilise the EU’s eastern neighborhood. This has resulted in the creation of the Eastern Partnership initiative, which despite its limitations, was an important step forward in securing the democratic and European future of our countries.

    Let the recent setbacks serve in a similar role, as catalysts for renewing the commitment of the EU to its eastern neighbors.

    The strategic interests of the European Union in creating a stable and prosperous neighborhood around its borders, access to the human and natural resources of the Eastern partners and the benefits from the common economic space with them, all are self-evident.

    However, strategic interests aside, the people who braved to confront the authorities in the streets of Tbilisi and Kiev some 10 years ago demanding their freedom, who, despite all the disappointments of the decade following the colour revolutions, have not lost their faith in democracy and are willing to go back to the Maidan to defend their European choice, count on the European Union.

    Europe must not disappoint us.

    [Originally published on euobserver.com: http://ces.tc/1iZpsPD]

    Salome Samadashvili Defence Democracy EU-Russia Foreign Policy

    Salome Samadashvili

    What next after the EU’s Vilnius summit?


    29 Nov 2013


    The Joint Plan of Action regarding Iran’s nuclear programme that was agreed on in Geneva on November 25th, also often just referred to as “the deal”, has produced strong opinions either in favour or against. Even though at a CES publication launch earlier this year I said I feel rather pessimistic regarding a solution of the issues associated with the Iranian nuclear programme I will side with those feeling positive about the deal. Why that? Because it was the best possible deal at this moment and it is preferable to having no deal at all.

    Yes, the sanctions imposed on Iran have hit the countries economy hard and they probably constitute the major factor for Iran to get back to productive negotiations but anybody who might think that these sanctions would bring Iran to the point to fully give up its nuclear programme (and the potential to fuel processing and enrichment specifically) made unrealistic assumptions in the first place. Apart from the fact that external pressure often produces even stronger resistance to give in, the complicated machinery that makes up Iran’s political decision-making process and power distribution would not allow for anything going beyond to what was agreed in Geneva at this point.

    So while I agree that ending enrichment activities and the dismantling of facilities would have been preferable it was clear from the beginning that this could only come at the end of a long process and not at the beginning of a 6-month interim agreement. So what do we get? If the agreement is followed (and I will say something about cheating in a moment) Iran will suspend 20% enrichment of Uranium and will either turn existing stockpiles into oxide form, which is not usable for weapons, or reduce the enrichment grade by blending. In addition no more centrifuges can be added and recently installed ones cannot be commissioned. Also work on the Arak reactor that is a possible source for weapons-grade Plutonium is suspended. This is combined with rather strong verification provisions that allow IAEA inspector unprecedented access to facilities.

    All of this would ensure that that the time Iran needs for a burst programme to produce enough highly enriched Uranium (or Plutonium) for a nuclear weapon is significantly lengthened instead of shortened as it would have been the case without a deal and with new centrifuges installed. This gives time for further negotiations aiming at a more long term if not final resolution of the dispute on the Iranian nuclear programme and this is what this agreement is all about: Time. But what if the Iranians cheat? If there are strong indications that the agreement is not followed it should be declared void and sanctions should be tightened.

    Admittedly it might be hard to do that at some point and its time for the 3+3 to define their red lines now. However if you assume that Iran will for sure cheat there is no need for any further attempts to resolve the problem by diplomatic means. The only option then, if you were not willing to accept an Iranian bomb, would be military action with all possible consequences. This means giving up political options and in my opinion is highly irresponsible. If the decision for Iran’s leadership is either to go for a nuclear weapon to be immune to attempts of external regime change or to suspend nuclear ambitions in order to avoid possible internal change (as happened to so many other countries during the Arab spring) my bet is currently on the latter and the world should make the best of this opportunity. However, lets not forget that things in the Middle East are never easy and always complicated.

    This conflict is embedded in numerous others: The clash between Sunni and Shia Islam, the tensions between Arab countries and non-Arab Iran, the conflict of Israel and its Muslim neighbours, increased instability in the region after the Arab spring revolutions, just no name a few. What we see are not only negotiations between the 3+3 and Iran but we also have a number of invisible stakeholders sitting at the table with their concerns and wishes. Will this agreement lead to better sleep for people in Israel or for the leaders of the Gulf countries? Not quite, but on the other hand it should not lead to new nightmares either. Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog post are entirely those of the author and do not represent those of any organisation.


    “Peace for our time” is reportedly what Chamberlain said when he stepped off the plane from Munich in September 1938 where he had negotiated a fateful deal: He had given in to most of Hitler’s demands regarding Czechoslovakia, got little in return and so ended up bringing World War II a good deal closer, as we know today. In many of the critical comments these last days, not only in the Israeli ones, Geneva has been labelled the new Munich. Now, historical parallels should always be handled with care. But I do believe that those who now pride themselves of having averted war, may have actually brought it closer in the end. So let’s look at the drawbacks, the alternatives, and the consequences of Geneva.

    What’s bad about the interim agreement? In December 2006, the UN Security Council demanded an immediate end to all uranium and plutonium enrichment in Iran. Over the past years, an elaborate sanctions regime has been built up, which is never easy and took a lot of time and effort. As we see, it has started to bite. But in Geneva last weekend, the West, as part of the 3+3 powers, has not only vowed to impose no new sanctions (which were well on their way), but actually to ease the ones in place. Let’s spell it out: The UN demand of 2006 has now been officially thrown out the window. Western insistence that Geneva is not equivalent to a recognition of Iran’s “right to enrichment” changes little here. Now that the Iranian negotiators have received their heroes’ welcome by regime-sponsored crowds in Tehran and Ayatollah Khamenei has made clear that Iran’s “right to enrichment” was recognised, it is hard to see how the regime can, in future, agree to any deal that would take it away

    On sanctions, however, the international and domestic pressure in the West to ease them further will increase. And it should be obvious that even if and when Iran is caught red-handed at cheating, calls for the reintroduction of sanctions will be labelled as “dangerous provocations” that would only antagonize the mullahs. Geneva is a one-sided agreement that leaves Iran’s efforts to achieve nuclear breakout capacity basically intact. It has strengthened the regime domestically, so it can continue to oppress democrats, and internationally, so it can continue to export terror and commit crimes against humanity, such as in Syria. It’s a bad deal.

    What would have been the alternative? According to the advocates of Geneva: War. Well, military action to disable Iran’s nuclear weapons programme has always been an option that even Barack Obama never took off the table. And that’s where it should remain. But quite obviously, the main and immediate alternative to both war and a flawed agreement would have been to move to the next round of sanctions while trying to make the regime understand that it has to stop enrichment immediately, and close down (not temporarily limit) all preparations for producing plutonium in Arak. With only current sanctions in place, that may have been difficult to achieve even with the Rohani regime. But it was worth trying tougher sanctions to drive up the cost of enrichment.

    Where do we go from here? Now that the interim agreement has been signed, it will be of utmost importance to achieve in the upcoming negotiations what could not be achieved so far: The dismantling of the Iranian effort to develop nuclear weapons. Pressure, including tougher sanctions and military threats, must be upheld, and the temptation to get carried away by our diplomatic “success” must be resisted. As France demonstrated a few weeks ago, it is possible to keep the Obama administration from “kicking the can down the road” on the Iranian nuclear programme.

    Because one thing should be clear: If Iran retains any capacity to break out and race to the possession of nuclear weapons within a matter of months, a possible consequence is still an Israeli military strike – because Israelis will never accept a nuclear armed Iran, and they have good reasons for that. But the certain consequence would be a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Which would surely bring the world closer to a devastating war than a further escalation between the West and Iran due to increased pressure. To prevent such an arms race, not to succeed in diplomacy at any price, must be the main concern of Western leaders in the negotiations ahead.

    Marc-Michael Blum Roland Freudenstein Defence Foreign Policy Middle East Security

    Marc-Michael Blum

    Roland Freudenstein

    Iranian Nuclear Program: The Geneva Deal Pros and Cons


    26 Nov 2013

  • Due to strong growth rates, BRICS countries are more confident than ever and seek contact with each other. The increase in BRICS to BRICS trade over the last ten years has been impressive: approximately a 1000%, from 29 Billion in 2000 to 319 Billion in 2010.

    In a time when Europe is fighting a severe recession and growing economic divergence between its member states, China proposes a currency swap with Brazil to assure access to its raw materials and large consumer market and a BRICS Development Bank including a contingent Reserve Arrangement up to 100 Billion to support these countries is in the works. Will Europe become a victim of intra-BRICS closeness and miss out on trade opportunities? Will Europe have to step aside as a global leader in the near future?

    In classic international relations ‘realism’ as opposed to ‘idealism’ is still the dominant theory to make sense of the international world order. In this view, each actor is only concerned with its individual and relative gain instead of absolute gain for multiple countries. Self-interest and survival are their only concern. Is there a danger of deriving to a Hobbesian state of a war of all against all for, for example, natural resources?

    We would argue that the EU is still a very rich and competitive continent and all actors (EU, BRICS, etc) also have an interest in developing their so-called ‘Leviathan’. All actors should engage in concluding and creating bilateral or multilateral trade agreements and institutions to enforce a level playing field. At that levelled field, businesses can compete, innovate and generate welfare for an ever growing number of citizens.

    Although it is a well-known fact that the Asian countries experience a much higher economic growth than Europe at the moment, the EU-economy is still three times the size of China, measured in GDP. Low growth rates in a large economy still generate more new market demand than high growth in a smaller economy. Other than that, the majority of the BRICS countries export-basket still consists of raw materials and the EU market remains one of the biggest destinations. Brazil for example is the single biggest exporter of agricultural products to the EU.

    Furthermore, the EU is China’s biggest trading partner. It illustrates that these emerging economies for a large part still rely on the EU, so a strategy based on pure relative gain might not be the smartest move.

    Despite recent trade liberalizations, the Brazilian market for example, is still relatively high protected with an applied customs averaging tariff of 12%. The EU therefore consistently encourages Brazil to reduce tariff barriers and to maintain a stable regulatory environment for European investors and traders. Russia and China on the other hand recently joined the WTO and the latter has made good progress in its membership commitments but industrial policies and non-tariff measures in China still discriminate against foreign companies. India has embarked on a process of economic reform and progressive integration with the global economy that aims to put it on a path of rapid and sustained growth. Negotiations on a free trade agreement with the EU started in 2007.

    Considering the theory of ‘realism’, the EU does everything in their power to develop sustainable trade relations with the BRICS countries. So will the rise of the BRICS mark the end of the EU as a global leader? According to the Global Competitiveness Index 2013 from the World Economic Forum, the EU is still miles ahead of the BRICS when it comes to key factors like infrastructure, higher education and business sophistication. This lack of development in some of the most essential market characteristics will keep the BRICS from taking over EU’s top position in the world market in the short to medium term.

    However, the EU is challenged and should keep up its focus on increasing its (cost) competitiveness In times of global challenges and economic crises, emerging and established economies should unite in bilateral FTA’s and WTO memberships in order to create a level playing field. Striving towards absolute gain for all the aforementioned continents might in fact be the best way to serve both EU and BRICS’ self-interest.

    NOTE: This blog is based on a public presentation in the framework of a Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Conference in Berlin on 25th September 2013, “Twilight of the Gods in Europe, A Golden Age of the Emerging Countries? The EU and the BRICS States Facing New Global Challenges.”

    Stefaan De Corte Barend Tensen Economy European Union Foreign Policy

    Stefaan De Corte

    Barend Tensen

    The rise of the BRICS countries: threat or opportunity for the EU?


    14 Oct 2013

  • Speech by John Bruton, Former Prime Minister (Taoiseach) of Ireland (1994 to 1997), to a meeting of Zhejiang Chamber of Commerce at the Guangzhou Baiyun International Convention Centre, at 9am on Sunday 1 September.



    The last time I was here in Guangzhou was in 1978 when, as a relatively young member of the Irish legislature, I came here to observe the beginning of the modernisation of China , under the leadership of the late Chairman Deng.
    My impression, at the time, was that everybody travelled by bicycle, and wore uniform clothes. The sound of China for me, was the tinkle of a thousand bicycle bells. China struck me, then, as a sensibly frugal society, which let nothing go to waste. There was a sense of order, a sense that people knew where they were going.

    I also found a people who were was immensely welcoming towards a European like myself, who came from a continent whose interactions with China, over the previous 150 years, had often been marked, on the European side, by exploitation and racism.
    I even saw the remnants of the European concessions here in this city, where, until 1949, European nations had applied their own rules, even though on Chinese sovereign territory. In the French concession I came across a disused Catholic church, that had been converted into a clothing factory. I sometimes wonder if it has since been restored to its former use.

    I also had a strong sense, then, that China was a society on the move.

    Now, 35 years later, I am back in a very different city. In one of the great commercial centres of the world, to see the results of the modernisation initiated 35 year ago.

    Most people in the west did not really understand what China was doing then.


    Many may have thought that the Four Modernisations were only rhetoric.

    I came across a phrase recently that will probably be familiar to many here, that sums up the Four Modernisations policy initiated here in 1978.

    It was that the country was “wading across a river, by feeling for stones underfoot”.In other words, it was a policy of experimentation, of trial and error, of allowing mistakes to be made, of trying different approaches in different regions, and allowing competition between the different approaches and the different regions.This flexibility explains the difference between Chinese and Soviet economic policy at that time, and explains why the first succeeded, and the other failed.Indeed, the strength of the western capitalist economic model, is that it, too, encourages experimentation and trial and error, but uses different methods to do so.

    China has made huge strides since 1978. It is now well established, on an income per head basis, as a middle income country according to World Bank classifications.


    In 1960, there were 100 middle income countries in the world. Ireland was one of them.By 2008, only 13 of those 100 countries had reached high income status. Ireland was one of the 13 that made it, along with Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Mauritius, Spain, Equatorial Guinea, Portugal and Greece. The remaining 87 countries, which were middle income countries in 1960, have undoubtedly made progress since, but they are still middle income countries, and some of those who attained high income status by 2008, may now be falling back into the middle income category.Nothing stands still. Progress to the next stage is not automatic.

    Economic growth is, as the economist Schumpeter put it, a process of constant creative destruction. Growth is about change. Change is often painful, and painful, but necessary, change can easily be confused with mindless austerity.

    When a country is moving from less developed, to middle income, status, it is often able to compete by doing things , that are already being done, more cheaply than established competitors can do them. It does not have to come up with brand new technologies. it can use existing technologies, but apply at less cost and with minor improvements.

    Moving a country, from middle income, to high income status, in contrast, often requires it to push at the boundaries of technology, to find a niche that no one else if filling, to invest in people and ideas as well as in concrete and metal. That is the stage into which China is now moving its 1.4 billion people, a move that promises to be one of the great transformations of human history.


    The size of the transformation involved explains why China is today spending 2% of its GDP on Research and Development (R&D), which is more, as a proportion of GDP, than Ireland, Netherlands, the UK, Norway, Luxembourg, Italy, and Spain and many other European countries are spending.
    Incidentally, Israel, Korea, and Finland are the biggest proportionate spenders on R & D.But R&D alone will not move a country from middle to high income status. It must be made easy for entrepreneurs to use the R&D, by setting up new businesses and to recruiting talented local people to help them do it.Here, Ireland has a strong advantage in that it is one of the easiest places in Europe to set up a new business, and one of the easiest in which to recruit young well educated people at competitive salaries.

    This has already attracted 18 different Chinese companies to set up operation in Ireland. Ireland is particularly interested in Chinese companies that are in fields like Life Sciences, Clean tech, financial services and information technology.

    Ireland is also active in food exports to China ,which have grown by 92% in just two years!

    I believe there are aspects of the Irish educational system from which China could benefit . 5000 Chinese students study in Ireland. Numerous agreements exist between Irish and Chinese Universities. These must be built upon, especially in key areas of research ,like financial services.


    If China is to exploit its investment in R&D to the full , it needs to liberalise its system of local residency permits, which discourage migration within China, and to make it easier for new Chinese companies to set up, in competition with existing state owned or established enterprises.
    The European Union, with its 0.5 billion people is a much smaller entity than China with its 1.4 billion people, but in the European Union, there are still restrictions on internal migration, analogous to the Chinese residency permit scheme, in that the EU does not have full transferability of Social Security rights, and full mutual recognition of professional qualifications, for internal migrants within the EU.


    But it would be unrealistic for me to come here and fail to refer to some of the recent economic difficulties Ireland has encountered. These difficulties are being overcome. Growth has been resumed, foreign investment in the country is at an all time high, and the government is following a careful plan. But it is also important to analyse objectively how Ireland got into these difficulties, and I believe that would be helpful to a country, like China, that is also undergoing rapid development and wants to avoid converting that into a destructive bubble.

    Indeed, the latest IMF report on China, contains warnings that will sound familiar to those who have studied recent Irish economic history. It talks of the risks of “a steady build up of leverage eroding the strength of the financial sector”, of “a boom in non traditional sources of credit”, and of the need to take “steps to reduce moral hazard to ensure that banks do not engage in potentially destabilizing competition” in China. On the other hand, it recognises that China has very well capitalised banks.A few years ago, these risks existed in Ireland, and were not adequately addressed by the authorities in Ireland itself, or in the European Union. We have suffered for that, and these are useful lessons for China.As I see it, this is what happened in Ireland. Thanks to artificially cheap credit, and rapidly rising property prices, Ireland experienced a property bubble between 2000 and 2007. This bubble led to a radical distortion of the country’s economic structures, and to a big increase in private and government debt.The cheap credit was available because of decisions taken by the US Federal Reserve and by European Central Bank. Both favoured low interest rates. They did so to avoid dislocations to the economy, that might have arisen from the dot com burst, 9/11, and the costs of German reunification. In these goals they succeeded.But the extra credit found its way across national boundaries into housing markets in various countries, causing a bubble in prices, most notably in Ireland. In 2008, the bubbles burst.


    The bubble distorted the Irish economy in ways that will take years to repair. There was distortion in the form of a doubling in the size of the construction sector, large and uncompetitive pay increases across the economy, and rapid increases in numbers of people employed in the public sector. The fact that money flowing in, temporarily, to government coffers, made it hard to resist demands to increase the size of the government sector, permanently. In just five years from 2001 to 2006, the share of the workforce in the public sector reached 29%, as against 19% in Germany. The numbers in top grade positions in the civil service grew by 86% .

    Bubbles misallocate human capital. Instead of choosing careers and skills, for which there is enduring global demand, talented people were drawn, by quick rewards, into activities for which demand is inherently temporary, like construction.


    In a way, it is easy to see why people made the mistake of thinking, in the 2000 to 2006 period, that house prices in Ireland (and household wealth) would never stop rising. Recent history seemed to suggest that the only way house prices could go was up. House prices had already risen by 133% between 1994 and 2000. These increases were justified by rapid economic growth, immigration, and new family formation, all of which created a genuine demand for housing. The trouble is that the increase in house prices continued after 2000, and was financed, not by improved competitiveness, but by excessive lending, and by income generated from, inherently temporary, construction spending.

    The assumption of the bankers, who were lending this money, seemed to be that demand for housing could go on growing, to infinity. A moment’s thought would have shown how nonsensical that was. But, in the middle of a boom, people are often too busy, to take a moment to think. The revenue of the Government became unhealthily dependent on taxes derived from property sales such as stamp duty, capital gains tax, and VAT on house sales. Property related revenues reached 18% of all revenues in 2006, whereas they were only been 8% in 2002. But once house sales stopped or slowed down, of course, that revenue growth stopped, leaving a huge hole in the Government’s budget.

    Again, a moment’s thought would have shown how dangerous it was, to build up permanent spending programmes, on the back of inherently temporary streams of revenue. But very few people, in politics or outside it, took a moment to think. For a country like China, the relevant question to ask about Ireland’s recent experience is

    “How can sensible, and generally public spirited, people make mistakes like this, and how can such mistakes be avoided ?”


    I would identify two tendencies of policy making in both the public and private sector, that were at the heart of the problem in Ireland
    1. “Silo tendencies” within institutions, charged with mitigating risks, where people only thought about their own immediate responsibilities, and did not question wider assumptions.
    2. A “consensus approach”, which encouraged a single view to be taken of any issue. Human beings are followers of fashion. We need institutions that deliberately challenge fashionable assumptions, and those institutions did not work, in Ireland or in the wider European Union.
    These errors can occur in ANY country, under ANY political system. They are not unique to Ireland, Spain, Arizona, California, Florida, or any of the other parts of the world where property bubbles arose.
    China must be wary that these problems do not arise here, and I know the authorities here are fully alive to these risks.


    These are the five big problems that the counties of the world must come together to tackle. They are all loosely related to one another. With the exception of the finance problem, they are all problems that are silently creeping up on us, so silently in fact that it is difficult to create a sufficient sense of immediate crisis, to get anything done about them. Technology will provide some of the answers, and I know China is devoting a significant proportion of its R&D to some of these issues.But sacrifices and compromises will be needed between and within nations. Pension entitlements will have to be limited in some countries, working lives extended, and elder care vastly expanded with the aid of technology. Migration will have to be accepted in ageing economies, and that is a big cultural challenge.CO2 emissions and pollution will have to be tackled by making the ultimate polluter meet the full cost of what he does.

    We may eventually need some form of global taxation, to meet the cost of preserving out common global heritage, but, in the meantime, we need to restore the tax base of states, in a cooperative way. We cannot expect Governments perform functions if its revenues are artificially depleted.

    And finally we need to put banking on footing that will be sound enough to allow incompetent banks to be closed down without putting the whole economy at risk. “Too big to fail” and “ too interconnected to fail” should no longer be characteristics of our banking systems.


    The existence of the euro, the single currency, has not created the economic crisis in Europe.This was going to come anyway because of lost competitiveness, the emergence of new competitors, like China, for traditional European industries, and the progressive ageing of European societies. Expansionary monetary policy could only have postponed the emergence of the symptoms, it could NOT have prevented the illness.

    What the existence of the euro has done is impose discipline and mutual solidarity on Europe.

    Without the euro, countries would have pursued the route of devaluation and inflation in response to their problems. Savings would have been wiped out. This is not possible now, and that is good. Instead problems are now being tackled at their source.Without the euro, wealthier and stronger European countries would not have come, so quickly, to the aid of other European countries in difficulty. They have now done so on a systematic basis, and that too is good.The EU is moving toward a common system for winding up banks that need to be wound up, without putting the overall system at risk. It is moving toward a common system of deposit insurance. These are issues that also require attention here in China.Much better systems are now being put in place in the European Union, to ensure that, in future, public finances, and underlying competitiveness, do not get out of line again. Out of the crisis, we are now facing up to problems we had ignored for the past 20 years in Europe.

    The euro will survive. Not only that, I believe it will eventually be imitated in other parts of the world.

    To sum up, the euro
    + is a protection against the expropriation of savings, through inflation and devaluation.
    + is a factor for economic stability in the world, and
    + is a major political step forward for unity Europe.

    John Bruton Crisis European Union Eurozone Foreign Policy

    John Bruton

    China, Europe and the Political Economy of the World


    05 Sep 2013

  • The allegations by Edward Snowden that the United States National Security Agency (NSA), for which he worked, spied on diplomatic missions of the European Union in Washington and New York, and even on the building where EU Summits take place in Brussels, are very serious. They require a deliberate and sustained response, not something exaggerated, or that will last only for a one day news cycle, and later expose contradictions in the EU positions.

    The truth is that fundamental values are at stake here for the EU. The founding idea of the EU was that relations in, and between, states should be governed by rules, rather than, as previously, by raw power. States and individuals should be equal before the law. The Snowden allegations, if true, reveal a grave breach on international law by an agency of the United States government. This is not something that can emoted about in the short term and then later brushed aside with a worldly wise and jaded shrug, on the basis that ”everyone is at it.”


    The law on this matter is crystal clear. The Vienna Convention of 1961 codifies the rules under which diplomats and embassies do their work. But the rules themselves go back, in customary international law, to the 16th century. The 1961 Vienna Convention has been ratified by the United States. Indeed the US relied successfully on that Convention in the International Court of Justice, when its own diplomats and Embassy were interfered with by Iran in 1979. It is in the national interest of the United States to ensure that this Convention is respected, without question, and as a matter of routine, in order to ensure protection for its own missions abroad.

    The Vienna Convention says, in article 22:
    “the premises of a (diplomatic) mission shall be inviolable”.
    ”A receiving state shall not enter them, except with the consent of the Head of Mission”
    “The receiving state is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the premises of the mission from any intrusion.”

    Article 24 of the Convention says the “archives and documents of the mission shall be inviolable” and Article 27 extends similar protection to it correspondence.

    The Snowden/Der Spiegel allegations suggest that listening devices were placed in the EU Mission in Washington, without consent, which would be a blatant breach of Article 22. No such consent was given in my time in Washington. They also suggest that the NSA hacked into the computer system of the EU missions, which would be a clear breach of both article 24 and 27 of the Vienna Convention.

    Reacting to these allegations, US figures, like the former head of the CIA, made no reference at all the US obligations under international law, to the US interest in protecting diplomacy, or even to the unfairness and bad faith involved in spying on partners with whom one is supposedly negotiating in a transparent way. Instead he sought to dismiss them, by hinting vaguely about intelligence gathering by some EU states.

    But what is alleged was not a case of the US reciprocally countering supposed illegal activities by some EU states. It was hostile and illegal activity, by the US, directed against the EU itself, and the EU does not do have either the capacity, or the authority, to carry on any reciprocal surveillance of US missions in Europe, and does not do so. The ex head of the CIA knows that perfectly well.

    In any event, I do not understand the point of what the NSA was supposedly doing. The activities of the EU Missions abroad and of the Council of Ministers in Brussels deal with subjects on which the facts are well known, and on which negotiating options are also fairly obvious. They can be easily discovered by US officials, simply by asking. They do not involve sensitive questions concerning the security of the United States, which is supposed to be the concern of the NSA.

    There will, very occasionally, be commercially sensitive and confidential information shared with the EU Mission in Washington by European or American companies, which might be useful to its competitors. Apart from the illegality involved, the NSA would have no legitimate reason to seek out, collect, or share that sort of commercial information. I believe what is involved here is a case of a security bureaucracy gradually extending is role, and engaging in “mission creep” just because it can and because nobody is stopping it. The missions of Agencies are often lazily defined and open to multiple interpretations. That may well be the case with the NSA.


    What should the EU do now? I will start by saying what it should not do.

    It should not suspend the negotiation of a possible Trade and Investment Pact with the United States. In fact, it should recognise that these allegations strengthen the EU’s hand in these negotiations, in the sense that the US now has to demonstrate its good faith. Nor should it expect an early, full, or contrite admission from the United States of what might have happened, or make that a precondition for anything.

    Instead, The EU should adopt a twin track approach. It should continue with the trade and investment negotiations, as if nothing had happened. But, simultaneously and separately, the EU and its member states should follow the example set by the United States itself in 1980 and take a case in regard to these allegations of breaches of the Vienna Convention to the International Court of Justice in the Hague. This assumes that it can obtain sufficient documentary evidence of the Snowden allegations from Mr Snowden, or from Der Spiegel. Pursuing a legal route would de-politicise the issue in the short term and allow time for things to cool down.

    Surveillance technology has advanced a great deal since 1961 when the Convention was concluded. A new judgement from the International Court in this case would be helpful. It would re-establish and modernise the norms of behaviour we would want all countries to respect in future, notably emerging powers like China. President Obama, who, probably more than any previous President, understands the significance of international law, and who wants to bring countries like China fully within its strictures, should welcome such a robust reaffirmation of the Vienna Convention.

    [Originally published in http://www.irishtimes.com]

    John Bruton EU-US Foreign Policy Security Transatlantic

    John Bruton

    US spy affair: a case of international law?


    11 Jul 2013

  • Karl Marx wasn’t wrong on everything. Take his famous dictum about history repeating itself: The first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. If 2003 was a transatlantic tragedy, with the open rift within the West about the Iraq War, then 2013, with its revelations of American data mining and spying on allies, and the ensuing European shock and anger, risks becoming the year of a transatlantic farce.

    Again, European atlanticists look stupid – poodles to the US, so to speak. Again, and even more ominously, resentment against America has become a tool of European politics: witness the German Social Democrats’ blatant attempts (http://ces.tc/14XJ2mS) to paint Chancellor Merkel as too docile vis-à-vis American unilateralism. The pictures showing her smiling next to Barack Obama in Berlin, two weeks ago still an asset, suddenly have become a liability in her re-election bid.

    Nevertheless, this is not 2003 – the main reason being that Europe’s relative weight in the transatlantic relationship has actually further declined over the last ten years: both militarily and economically. Militarily, the United States is – rightly or wrongly – withdrawing its last major combat units from Europe while Europeans compete in cutting their defence budgets to record lows. And they show very little willingness to shoulder any major new security burden. Economically, the US is now moving out of the crisis while Europe seems mired in stagnation, with dwindling exports, low competitiveness and a mountain of over-regulation. America is busily exploring shale gas, thereby creating windfall profits as well as reducing its energy dependence – while Europeans are dragging their feet over shale gas and thus risk missing out on cheap energy and less dependence on Russia.

    Now we know that in 2003, the US also believed it could get on without the (West) Europeans. Or without anybody else, for that matter – after all, the term unilateralism was then born in reference to a White House allegedly in the grip of neocon ideology. But that mood changed very quickly in Washington, where the second George W. Bush administration became very cooperative with all Europeans – much more so than Obama’s America ‘pivoting’ towards Asia.

    So where does this leave us atlanticists in the days of transatlantic spying and data mining? Three major truths come to mind:

    First, most transatlantic spying is done jointly, not against each other. And it is important to keep the data mining apart from the eavesdropping. Data mining in private communication, according to all we know today, is also done by the French and British intelligence services, and the German authorities were at least informed about some of the NSA’s activities. After all, some spectacular successes of European services against would-be terrorists, such as Germany’s preventing the ‘Sauerland’ gang (http://ces.tc/12fEIkj) from killing hundreds in 2007, were already then explained by US services having used telephone and internet data.

    Hence, there is no reason for Europeans to be particularly morally outraged about Snowden’s revelations. On the other hand, the scope of the snooping on the internet will be open for debate. Everyone in this debate subscribes to the need to find the right balance between privacy and security. No one can claim to have found the perfect solution. And as to the spying on allies: while we still have to learn about its actual scope – it is clear that diplomats always have to envisage that others will try to get hold of their secrets – even friends. In the EU institutions, with the lax attitude to secrecy and some Member States’ tendency to leak documents, it usually doesn’t take listening bugs or malware for others to find out what the European External Action Service or the Commission are up to.

    Second, are trade talks such as TTIP the appropriate framework to hit back in anger? – No, because that would be self-defeating on a large scale. Due to the growing transatlantic asymmetry, and because of Europe’s dire need to increase its own potentials for growth, it has very little leverage through suspending or dragging out the negotiations. They will be hard enough from now on, in any case. To open up US public procurement, for example, or for Europeans to accept importing genetically manufactured organisms (GMOs), will require protracted domestic battles on either side. And, of course, discussing digital services in the TTIP framework will be a good opportunity to speak about privacy and security. But that would also presuppose having a digital single market in the EU – which is not in sight at the moment. All this means that the talks must go on now. Transatlantic differences in the digital field can be resolved in due time.

    Third, it is time to develop a more realistic atlanticism (http://ces.tc/14XJhyc) : That includes being a bit more open about the dilemmas of freedom and security in the age of global terrorism. Some of the transatlantic rhetoric about the freedom of the individual as a core value of the West will sound hollow if we don’t more openly redefine it for the 21st century. There will have to be more exceptions to fundamental rights if we want to preserve them at all. If we pay attention to that, then 2013 does not have to become the year of the transatlantic farce.

    Roland Freudenstein Foreign Policy Internet Trade Transatlantic

    Roland Freudenstein

    Transatlantic relations need more realism – not more hysteria


    08 Jul 2013

  • Henna Hopia Defence Foreign Policy Leadership Security Transatlantic

    Henna Hopia

    Breaking down the Walls: Improving EU-NATO Relations


    05 Jul 2013

  • For the European Union, democracy support is both a moral obligation and an expression of enlightened self-interest. Those who live in freedom have an obligation to support those who don’t, if and when such support is desired. At the same time, historical experience shows that democracies are in general more peaceful and more prosperous than countries under authoritarian rule or failed states. Hence, the European Union, its Member States and its citizens have good reasons to assist democrats, support the transition to the rule of law and good governance, and help the development of civil society in the countries of its Southern and Eastern neighbourhood.

    The years 1989-1991, with the peaceful revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe, were a perfect example of such a development. Western support for the democracy movements was crucial, and the successful transition of the last two decades has by far exceeded all initial expectations.

    In the last ten years, however, it has become clear that the transition to democracy, good governance and the rule of law in the Eastern neighbourhood is by no means as easy (in hindsight) as in the Central and Eastern European countries that have by now joined NATO and the EU. That is because in the Eastern neighbourhood, contrary to Central Europe, civil society is generally less developed, traditions of statehood are often lacking, economic development is far below Central European standards, and Russia has often played a rather nonconstructive role in what it still considers its ‘near abroad’. Since the ‘colour revolutions’ of the early 2000s, there has even been a backslide into more authoritarian rule – for different reasons – in countries such as Belarus, Ukraine and Georgia.

    In the EU’s Southern neighbourhood, the enthusiasm after the initial Arab revolts of 2011 has given way to a more sober assessment: Here, too, civil societies are generally poorly developed (although Lebanon and Tunisia look comparatively good), good governance and the rule of law are rudimentary, societies are sometimes deeply divided along sectarian lines or the paradigm of the role of religion in public life – and, above all, some countries are in a civil war (Syria) or and some economies are near free-fall (Egypt). Equally important, Europe as part of the West is tainted in the eyes of many democrats because of its former support for authoritarian rulers. All this makes for a substantial difference to the situation in Central and Eastern Europe in 1989.

    In conclusion, it is clear that in most neighbourhood countries today, South as well as East, the basis for democracy support does not exist to the same degree it existed in 1989 and the following years in Central and Eastern Europe. That does not mean one should give up trying to promote central democratic values. But it means that the EU needs a new instrument to make its efforts more political, more sustainable, more flexible and more efficient. Hence, the six key challenges for the European Endowment for Democracy are the following:

    • Elections vs. rule of law, good governance and civil society: If there is one overriding lesson of democracy support over the last 20 years, it is that democratic elections alone do not secure democracy, let alone make for a stable and prosperous development. Much more work and resources have to be invested into civil society and its actors and institutions, as well as into the understanding of the rule of law, due process and good governance. Hence, the support for elections and political movements must go hand in hand with a more long-term effort to secure the other factors.

    • Good analysis: Democracy support in the EU’s neighbourhood is only possible based on a thorough analysis of the situation on the ground. Assessments of the overall political situation, as well as the crucial actors in the respective countries, and a good overview of NGOs and civil society organisations, cannot come only from diplomatic representations. but must be based on information and analysis from European NGOs that have a permanent presence, as well as local actors themselves.

    • Identify the Unsupported: It is often a challenge to identify actors and organisations that are efficient, and fulfil the criteria for support (above all, public traction and/or access to decision makers), and that are not yet supported by any other European or Western donor. This, too, will require close cooperation and coordination with other actors of democracy support.

    • Risk management: In many neighbourhood countries , authoritarian rulers pose increasingly high challenges to NGOs and individuals accepting support from external actors (cf. Belarus’ ‘foreign agents’ legislation). In the Middle East and North Africa, there is often not only the danger of legal action against Western democracy support organisations (cf. in Egypt against 17 US & German NGOs), but also a risk of public stigmatisation as ‘agents of the West’. Hence, support must be carefully calibrated to the actual risks for local actors, and damage to them must be avoided.

    • Capacity building: In both the Eastern and the Southern neighbourhood, due to the rudimentary structures of civil society, many NGOs and CSOs have poorly developed administrative and analytical capacities. Hence, while they may be politically attractive, any effort to support them must take into account the need to train personnel and provide long term support. This can only be ensured by close cooperation with other democracy support organisations.

    • Rivalry/Complementarity: While the EED is an independent private law foundation, it will nevertheless have to not only avoid duplication with existing organisations (such as the EIDHR, or big national political foundations) but also closely cooperate with them. Rivalry is to be avoided, and complementarity is the only way forward.

    Hence, the EED will need to carefully balance between political organisations and classical civil society actors, build a solid analytic base (country files), specify the criteria for recipient organisations, take into account the inherent risks in democracy support, be conscious of the need for capacity building, and – above all – cooperate with all other European and extra-European donors and actors in the EU’s neighbourhood.

    [Photo source: http://democracyendowment.eu/]

    Roland Freudenstein Democracy European Union Foreign Policy

    Roland Freudenstein

    Supporting the Unsupported: Mission & Challenges of the European Endowment for Democracy


    16 May 2013

  • One week after the Boston bombings, with the perpetrators dead or arrested, we may not know the whole story yet. But we know that America is, once more, confronted by a case of ‘home-grown’ terrorism, i.e. an attack by people that, no matter where they originally came from, radicalised themselves and became jihadists while being residents of a Western country. Most previous comparable attacks were unsuccessful – this one was not. And in the ensuing debate about what can be done to prevent such attacks, we are experiencing a sense of déjà vu: just like in Europe after comparable attacks, foiled or successful, the knee-jerk reaction by the Left is to search the perpetrators’ curriculae for signs of disenfranchisement, of dashed hope and discrimination suffered at the hands of the host country’s majority. And the conclusion is invariably that if we could only become more tolerant, more open societies, such sad cases would not happen. Which is why the best preventive anti-terror strategy is anti-discrimination legislation, promoting a multi-cultural society and legalising all forms of immigration.

    Conservatives in the US, unsurprisingly, took a different view. Some Republicans again questioned the President’s project of a new immigration bill, demanding much tighter restrictions on immigration in the future. Others took this opportunity to criticise gun control: during the manhunt, when Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was still eluding police, gun lobbyists tweeted whether Boston area Democrats wouldn’t wish they had a semiautomatic rifle now. But the argument most often given by US conservatives is very simply that all other immigrant groups so far have integrated themselves – often in a long and sometimes painful process – without resorting to the kind of indiscriminate violence at play in Boston. So one might well discuss more efficient ways to integrate immigrants, and better early warning methods for law enforcement to detect radicalisation, as well as improved incentives for de-radicalisation. Maybe European experience can be of some help here. But on the central issue of multiculturalism, there is no reason to make an exception to the rule that no democracy can allow parallel societies – parts of immigrant populations where the basic values of our constitutions are systematically disregarded. Europe and America are today closer than ever before in having to meet this challenge. We should do this together – that’s one of the lessons of the Boston bombing.

    Roland Freudenstein Defence EU-US Extremism Foreign Policy Transatlantic

    Roland Freudenstein

    After Boston – Terrorism, Immigration and Integration


    24 Apr 2013

  • On the 22nd of April 2013, the Centre for European Studies (CES) kicked off a new series of events entitled ‘Food for Thought’; the first event in the series, entitled ‘Leading from Behind: U.S. Foreign & Defence Policy Ten Years after Kagan’s Of Paradise and Power’ welcomed Kenneth Weinstein, CEO and President of Hudson Institute in order to discuss Obama’s foreign policy and its implications for the transatlantic relationship.

    In his introductory remarks, CES Director Tomi Huhtanen emphasised the importance the Centre for European Studies, as the official think tank of the European People’s Party attaches to transatlantic relations. As part of the transatlantic research agenda, the Centre for European Studies regularly publishes studies and organises events with experts and senior officials from both sides of the Atlantic; one of the most important events of this kind is the Transatlantic Think Tank Conference, a conference which takes place every year in Brussels and Washington.

    Dr Weinstein started his intervention by recalling that ten years ago, the launch of a second U.S.-led war against Saddam Hussein exposed intra-NATO differences of temperament and philosophy in sharp relief. This stark divergence of perspective on both sides of the Atlantic then led political scientist Robert Kagan, in a famous essay and subsequent book titled ‘Of Paradise and Power’, to declare that Europe and the U.S. had come to inhabit two separate planets entirely. According to Kagan, the Americans were ‘from Mars’, emphasising force projection in international affairs, while Europeans were ‘from Venus’, favouring ‘laws, rules and transnational negotiation and cooperation.’

    Ten years later and taking into consideration the different imprint left by President Obama on US foreign and defence policies, the metaphor seems to have inversed and the planets seem to have realigned, according to Dr Weinstein. In support of his argument, he cited the examples of Libya, Syria or Mali, where the Europeans had taken the (military) lead. In the meantime, looking at troop draw-downs in Iraq and Afghanistan or diplomatic engagement with Iran, Americans seem to have turned inward ‘with an almost Venusian vengeance.’ In an even more worrying development, Dr Weinstein pointed out that US’s unilateral acts vis-à-vis its European partners were frustrating the latter, leading to a decline of influence of the West as a whole in global affairs.

    After this initial setting of the scene, the participants engaged in a lively comments and questions session, whose main conclusions were the following: the US and the EU need to continue to work together during these challenging times for the transatlantic Alliance, especially with the rise of new world powers such as China and others. While neither the Mars nor the Venus approaches are sufficient on their own, the two powers need to combine them in a manner that leads to improved outcomes, particularly when it comes to intervention, reconstruction and withdrawal strategies. In the case of Syria, for example, the ‘leading from behind’ doctrine should materialise into concrete actions that provide a model and set an example for future transatlantic burden sharing.

    The fact that the Europeans are recently sometimes taking the leadership in their own neighbourhood is not per se a bad thing, and it can signal that they are ready to be a real partner in the transatlantic framework – although this has, in the past couple of years, pertained to France and Britain only, not to the entire European Union. However, American leaders need to communicate their changes of strategy better, so that the Europeans do not feel alienated. Last, but not least, Dr Weinstein concluded that both American political parties should communicate strategic doctrine principles better and more often to the American public, so that they build public support for US foreign policy.

    Defence EU-US Foreign Policy Security Transatlantic

    President of Hudson Institute: ‘The US and the EU need to find common ways to engage globally’

    Other News

    23 Apr 2013

  • Ten years ago last month, the launch of a second U.S.-led war against Saddam Hussein exposed intra-NATO differences of temperament and philosophy in sharp relief. So stark was the divergence of perspective on either side of the Atlantic that analyst Robert Kagan—in a justly celebrated Policy Review essay and subsequent book titled “Of Paradise and Power”—was moved to declare that Europe and the U.S. had come to inhabit two separate planets entirely.

    Americans were still “from Mars,” he suggested, maintaining the alliance’s traditional emphasis on real and potential force-projection as a tool in international affairs. Europeans, on the other hand, were now “from Venus,” their leaders deliberately “moving beyond power into a self-contained world of laws and rules and transnational negotiation and cooperation.” It was a striking metaphor, and Mr. Kagan’s masterful description of its intricacies continues to influence how policy makers on both continents view each other.

    The only wrinkle is that in recent years neither continent has behaved the way it is supposed to. In Barack Obama, the U.S. has a president who is clearly not from Mars. His foreign and defense policies—troop drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan, attempts at diplomatic engagement with Iran, and so forth—are guided by concerns that might once have been described as “European”: a presumptive skepticism about military power, and an instinctive preference for multilateralism and diplomacy in its place.

    Initially presented as an overdue restoration of “balance” and “partnership” to trans-Atlantic relations, what the president has wrought is considerably more dramatic. “America cannot turn inward,” then-Sen. Obama proclaimed at a July 2008 speech in Berlin. It seems he underestimated us.

    America has managed to turn inward with an almost Venusian vengeance. Nowadays it is Europeans who must repeatedly goad Washington to join a humanitarian intervention in Libya against Moammar Gadhafi. It is Europeans who try but fail to enlist the U.S. in an effort to arm the antigovernment resistance in Syria. Europeans—former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in this instance—must lobby the U.S. Congress for tougher sanctions against Tehran. Europeans—François Hollande, Mr. Sarkozy’s Socialist successor—make decisions about troop deployments in Mali more or less on their own.

    President Obama’s advisers like to style their last-in-the-saddle reserve as “leading from behind.” In London and Paris and elsewhere on the Continent, behind closed doors and off-the-record, they call it something else.

    It is not merely the substance of recent policy that has surprised and distressed our European allies. Paradoxically, “unilateralism”—the great, tragic flaw ascribed by its critics to George W. Bush’s presidency—is the one impulse his successor has most notably retained.

    The first shock came in Warsaw, early in Mr. Obama’s first term: The Polish government got only a few hours’ advance notice that Washington had decided to cancel a painfully negotiated missile-defense system that was irritating Moscow. Next came the president’s December 2009 speech on Afghanistan—announcing coalition manpower and scheduling commitments about which the Europeans had been only nominally consulted. Then came the White House advisory that Mr. Obama would break with tradition and not attend the 2010 EU-U.S. Summit in Madrid; EU representatives weren’t informed beforehand.

    So the Atlantic Alliance remains as fissured as ever, but for new and very different reasons. These days Europeans don’t complain to visiting Americans about feeling bullied by the White House. They complain about feeling ignored. It isn’t a question of policy per se, but rather a general sense of alienation: a cumulative impression across the Continent that liberal, democratic Europe—as both idea and practical priority—is sliding off Washington’s radar.

    More is at stake here than wounded vanity. European responses to this recent retreat from traditional American leadership vary. The French and British seem inclined to fill the vacuum—on an occasional basis and economic circumstances permitting. The Germans and Poles appear to prefer small-bore, bilateral arrangements of convenience—with respect to Russia, for example. Nevertheless, the result is ultimately the same: The vitality of “the West” as a global security lodestar is fading.

    In Washington, with isolationist tendencies in both major parties, our policy makers may not have noticed. But the non-Western rest of the world is paying close attention—and eagerly anticipating an international playing field in which vigorous, coherent NATO responses need no longer be assumed.

    This op-ed by Kenneth R. Weinstein, President and Chief Executive Officer of Hudson Institute originally appeared in the ‘Wall Street Journal’.

    Kenneth R. Weinstein Foreign Policy Leadership Transatlantic

    Kenneth R. Weinstein

    Venus and Mars Revisited


    18 Apr 2013

  • The Centre for European Studies is proud to participate as a Strategic Partner at GLOBSEC 2013 (Bratislava Global Security Forum), a high level conference that will take place during April 18-20, 2013.

    Founded eight years ago, the GLOBSEC Bratislava Global Security Forum has become a unique foreign policy and security platform – giving a Central European twist to the strategic debate on transatlantic foreign policy, economy and security. With the participation of over 500 key stakeholders from more than 40 countries, GLOBSEC has acquired a stable position among the elite club of major conferences in Europe and North America and is often compared with prestigious forums held in Brussels or Munich.

    Organised by the Slovak Atlantic Commission in cooperation with a wealth of institutional and international partners, GLOBSEC 2013 will welcome, among others: H. E. Radoslaw Sikorski, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland; H. E. Karel Schwarzenberg, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic; H. E. Štefan Füle, Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood; Yves Leterme, Deputy Secretary General, OECD, Paris; Hon. Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor to the President of the United States, Washington, D.C.

    This year, the Forum focuses on issues central to transatlantic and regional cooperation, including European economic prospects and the future of global economic governance. Panellists will also engage in debates over the character of Central European defence cooperation and Central Europe’s energy concerns. Other burning issues to be tackled at GLOBSEC 2013 include NATO’s post-ISAF role, new threats to cyber security, China’s role in the global financial crisis and challenges on Europe’s South-East doorstep.

    As part of a packed programme, CES Deputy Director and Head of Research Roland Freudenstein will appear as a speaker in a panel entitled ‘Addressing Iran: Prevention or Treatment?’; he will be joined by Richard Norton-Taylor, Security editor with The Guardian, Amb. Kurt Volker, Executive Director, of the McCain Institute for International Leadership, Ayman Khalil, Director of the Arab Institute for Security Studies in Amman and Emily Landau, Director of Arms Control and Regional Security Program with the Institute for National Security Studies, Tel Aviv. CES Research Associate Katarina Králiková will moderate a panel on Arab transitions as part of the Young Leaders Forum side programme. Visiting Fellow Henna Hopia is also attending the Forum as commentator during one of the dinner sessions, entitled ‘UK in the EU: with Europe but not of Europe?’

    For more details concerning GLOBSEC 2013, past editions and live streaming of this year’s public sessions, please visit: http://www.globsec.org/globsec2013/

    Defence Eastern Europe Foreign Policy Globalisation Security

    CES joins GLOBSEC 2013 in Bratislava as Strategic Partner

    Other News

    16 Apr 2013

  • Marc-Michael Blum Defence EU-US Foreign Policy Security

    Marc-Michael Blum

    Rethinking the bomb: Europe and nuclear weapons in the XXI century


    10 Apr 2013

  • On March 27, the Centre for European Studies welcomed a delegation of the Alwasat Party (Centre Party) from Egypt. The aim of the meeting was to exchange views on the current political situation in Egypt and to discuss the role of the EU in the country’s transition process. The Alwasat Party aims to be one of the parties engaged in breaking the deadlock between the ruling Islamists and the opposition. With their long history of opposition under the old regime and the current Muslim Brotherhood government, they could act as credible mediators as they are also closely involved in the current political developments of Egypt.

    The delegation was formed by Abou Elela Mady, Chairman, Essam Sultan and Hatem Azzam, Vice-Chairmen and Amr Farouk, Speaker of the party. A day earlier, members of the delegation had participated in a conference organised by the Hanns Seidel Foundation (Brussels office), entitled “Polarized Egypt – Can moderate political Islam bridge the gap?” The delegation’s visit to Brussels was facilitated by Christian Forstner, HSS Brussels office Director and Nina Prasch, HSS Resident Representative in Egypt, also present during the meeting.

    CES Director Tomi Huhtanen and Ingrid Habets, foreign policy Research Officer, presented the Centre’s activities related to the Middle East and North Africa region in general and Egypt in particular. Mr Huhtanen emphasised that the Arab Spring events had led to an increased focus of the EU on its neighborhood policies; as a result, the CES also started conducting research, establishing links and offering policy advice on the developments in the region. Ms Habets then presented the results of the Springeneration online initiative, a 2011 survey on how the EU could positively contribute to the momentous changes taking place in many MENA countries. She stressed that while the European Union was mainly focusing on human rights issues at the time, the survey revealed that the 70,000 young respondents from the region emphasised instead the importance of cooperation in the fields of education, entrepreneurship and economic development.

    Furthermore, Nicolas Briec, European People’s Party Secretary of External Relations, outlined the EPP’s engagement and support for democratic movements in the region. During the 2011 EPP Marseille Congress, the EPP in cooperation with the CES hosted a group of 40 MENA political activists; in 2012, together with the EPP Group and the CES, they welcomed to Brussels political leaders from four Tunisian parties. Through all these activities, the EPP remains committed to dialogue with like-minded partners and parties in the region; in this respect, the work of political foundations such as the Hanns Seidel Foundation are of great added value.

    The Centre for European Studies will continue to devote attention and carry out research focusing on developments in this region. To this end, a policy brief by Lorenzo Vidino, senior fellow at the Centre for Security Studies, ETH Zurich, on the role of the Muslim Brotherhood, its challenges and future scenarios will be available online on the CES website end of April.

    Arab Spring Foreign Policy Mediterranean Neighbourhood Policy

    CES discusses political developments with Egyptian moderate party

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    28 Mar 2013

  • Tunisia has often been considered both the avant-garde of Arab democracy (having ousted authoritarian leader Ben-Ali already in January 2011), and a bellwether of where its neighbours are going. But ever since the murder of opposition Popular Front leader Chokri Belaïd on 6 February, this country has not been the same anymore. It is true that tension had already been building up in the months before. The economy has hardly recuperated from its 2011 slump, tourism is still at an all-time low, unemployment at dangerous levels and inflation rampant. But the dissatisfaction of many Tunisians with the coalition government of the Islamist Ennahdha and two smaller parties also stems from two political problems they identify with the government: the attempt to impose a more conservative lifestyle on North Africa’s best educated, most secularised society – and the insufficient distinction made by Ennahdha between itself and the more radical, often violent Salafists and other extremists. This dubious role of Ennahdha found its most dramatic expression in the organised violence of the ‘League for the Protection of the Revolution’ (LPR), originally neighbourhood thugs that focused on remnants of the old regime, but that have turned on opposition parties and trade unions in recent months, breaking up meetings and attacking or threatening activists critical of Islamism.

    The murder of Chokri Belaïd by as yet unidentified gunmen has radically compounded this already slowly worsening situation. Belaïd, a left-of-centre secular liberal, was a very outspoken critic of Ennahdha and, only one day before his assassination, warned of political violence to come. This violence has now arrived, not only in the murder of Belaïd, but also in street brutality by police as well as the LPR against mostly peaceful protests by secular activists. But the climate of fear that followed is matched by the determination of many thousands of Tunisians that refuse to bend and that will not let the ‘Jasmine revolution’ be hijacked by an Islamism which they now consider a threat not only to their lifestyle but to their very lives.

    Yesterday’s resignation of Prime Minister Jebali is a clear recognition of the current Tunisian drama. Early elections are probably the only way now to re-establish some minimal trust of the people in their government. The European Union and its Member States should take note. There are many ways in which the EU can remind the current government of its obligation to stick to minimum human and civic rights standards, especially because it has been democratically elected.

    Tunisia can still pull back from the brink. If early elections bring to power a more centrist government with more competence in economics, and police prevents private militias, Salafists and Jihadists from imposing their idea of democracy on the majority of Tunisians, things can in the end turn for the better. Tunisia still has a huge potential. But putting this potential to use will require a strategy with more competence and much stronger roots in civic rights and individual liberty than what we have seen in recent months.

    [picture source:www.guardian.co.uk]

    Roland Freudenstein Arab Spring Democracy Foreign Policy Islam

    Roland Freudenstein

    Tunisia on the brink: After the resignation of Prime Minister Jebali


    20 Feb 2013

  • It’s one of those strange coincidences that underscore a turn in world affairs that has been underway for some time: One day after President Obama announces deep cuts in the US nuclear arsenal, North Korea carries out its third underground nuclear test, against the helpless criticism of most of the international community. Of course, even after the announced cuts, America’s number of warheads should be enough to deter any rational actor, especially one with only a handful of viable nuclear devices. A decrease in warhead numbers does not have the same unilateral effect it had during the Cold War. And yet: While the leading Western power is dramatically cutting both conventional and nuclear forces, some of its worst enemies are doing everything they can to acquire nuclear weapons (Iran) or to expand their nuclear arsenal (North Korea).

    Two remarks: First, the dynamics at play here are ominous indeed. The problem is not how many more nuclear warheads the US still has than North Korea (or, in future, Iran). The problem is the signal that is sent by the combination of deep force cuts and the rhetoric about ‘leading from behind’, ‘nation building at home’ and ‘ending a decade of war’. What to the Obama administration is only an acknowledgement of reality, is criticised by US conservatives as declinism and, indeed, a lack of realism about the forces at play in the world. I believe these critics have a point. Spending cuts may be inevitable. But, especially with smart defence, pooling & sharing and the like, they do not necessarily mean weaker forces, which is why the accompanying language vis-à-vis rogue states like North Korea and Iran doesn’t have to be any more appeasing than it has been 5 or 10 years ago.

    Russia and China, of course, play key roles in making things easier for both regimes to fool the rest of the world. Upon North Korea’s test, China’s reaction was the habitual call for calm and moderation on all sides. This cannot continue. Europe and America have to coordinate their efforts more closely in trying to convince China to a more openly tough line on Kim Jong Un.

    Second, in principle, what can be done about regimes that have or aspire to have nuclear weapons, that export terrorism and that cannot be ultimately deterred by the nuclear weapons of others because their elites are demonstrably following a different logic than the rest of the world? – Sanctions, is the usual answer. But, alas, neither in North Korea nor in Iran, sanctions have so far had any visible effect on the nuclear ambitions – although sanctions do hurt. Which is why they will have to be maintained – if only to show that it doesn’t pay off to be a rogue playing with nukes. But in order to solve the problem at hand, in the long run I am afraid there is no alternative to regime change, that time-honoured concept for which alone many Europeans would have liked to see George W. Bush stand Court in The Hague. It’s still a toxic term, and the method used in Iraq in 2003 may remain out of fashion for a while. But the very intention to change a regime that has become a liability to its own people as much as to everyone else, with all available means, and to help the people to replace it by something better for peace at home and in the world – that we will have to relearn. That involves more non-military than military options. From media such as Radio Liberty to democracy support by NGOs, from helping exiles to the use of facebook, the methods may vary and change over time. But the strategic goal must not. And in extreme cases and moments, it can still involve the use of military instruments, such as clandestine operations, or training and arming rebels. We may invent a new term for regime change. That does not change the fact that the West needs to pursue it, with patience and determination, and based on strength.

    Interestingly, in North Korea, one important driver for change from within seems to come from the sweet poison of Western pop culture, smuggled into the country on DVDs and USB sticks by a new class of black market traders and mini-entrepreneurs. This should be exploited and encouraged. In other words, let’s capitalise on it, quite literally!

    [Picture source: www.theatlanticwire.com]

    Roland Freudenstein Defence Foreign Policy

    Roland Freudenstein

    Rogues, nukes and regime change


    12 Feb 2013

  • A political decision was made at NATO Lisbon summit 2010 to end the now 102 000 strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission by the end of 2014, possibly still leaving a small contingent in place. This would leave the main security responsibility to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) with 350 000 men.

    However, are politically set timelines always realistic when applied on the ground? Notwithstanding President Hamid Karzai’s reassurance that Afghanistan has progressed and become more stable during the past decade, and that NATO is convinced the ANSF will deliver, the Afghan forces still lack important skills. As a senior US defence official last week put it, only a very small percentage of Afghan units are capable of fully independent operations, even though the ANSF should take control of the whole country by mid-2013. Also, according to the Global Terrorism Index, Afghanistan is the third on the list of countries under terrorist attack, and alongside with Iraq and Pakistan the attacks have more than quadrupled in the past decade, reaching their peak in 2007. Afghans themselves are afraid: will they again be left alone as many times before?

    Afghanistan has more or less become NATO’s raison d’être in the past decade, so it needs to continue securing Afghanistan even after 2014. Indeed, a new training, advising and assisting mission will commence after ISAF, but its exact size and scope remain unknown. At the Chicago summit, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen made one thing clear: ‘It will not be ISAF under a different name. It will be a new mission, with a new role for NATO.’ The US will again have the key role and it’s currently negotiating the mission with Afghan officials; details are to be announced in the coming weeks. Estimates of the number of troops involved run from 6000 to 30000. The mission could also be very limited if it focuses only on core tasks such as counter-terrorism, as the Pentagon has indicated. Nevertheless, the new mission should be strong and long-lasting enough to prevent the emergence of a power vacuum.

    The war for hearts and minds

    The insurgents, such as the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network, are waiting for such a vacuum. Over the past few years they have expanded their attacks to cover the whole country, and changed their strategy from military targets to soft ones, using suicide attacks and road side bombs against the Afghan police, civil servants and civilians including children. In addition to demonstrating their power to attacks whenever and wherever they want, their aim is to create distrust amongst the Afghan people towards a government that is unable to protect them.

    The international and Afghan troops are also facing a newer more terrifying weapon, the ‘green on blue’ attacks, where the troops are killed by the very people they train – the Afghan soldiers and policemen, insurgents in disguise or recruited members of the forces. Some claim the recruitment vetting procedure has not been able to keep up with the rapid expansion of the forces, and ISAF is now improving the security protocols.

    Nevertheless, the insider attacks have already caused a crisis of trust between the coalition and Afghan troops. The contributing countries have been demoralised by news of casualties, a lack of improvement in the security situation and slow progress in state reforms. The sense of belief of the mission has been undermined also by internal divisions in NATO, such as the feeling in the US that Europe is not doing enough. The political left has generally supported ending the mission and some Allies have decided to exit before the agreed timetable: France under President François Holland pulled its combat troops out just earlier this week, following the Netherlands (2010) and Canada (2011). President Barack Obama has also expressed his intention to withdraw the troops as fast as possible.

    Peace deal or civil war

    There are different scenarios as to what will happen to Afghanistan. The best, but also the least likely solution, would be a successful transition leading to a loss of interest by the insurgents. Also difficult, but already underway, is an attempt to negotiate a political settlement between the Afghan government and the insurgents. As it’s become evident that no military solution is possible, this has become the main objective also for the West. So far President Karzai hasn’t been able to get parties around the table under his ‘High Peace Council’. Keeping the Taliban’s close ally Haqqani network out of the talks might also delay matters (they were recently blacklisted by the US and UN). Also, as 2014 approaches, one might ask how willing will the Taliban be to negotiate.

    No real progress is expected anytime soon, but some individuals from the Afghan government and the Taliban are meeting for the first time this week in Paris. If there is no result before the coalition leaves, the third, and at this point most likely, scenario could happen. This would mean Afghanistan falling back into a civil and proxy war with large parts of the country under a ruthless Islamist rule, and acting as a safe haven for terrorists such as al-Qaeda. The presidential elections in April 2014 will be decisive: will the people trust the government, or will the country drift back into chaos.

    Regional power-play

    The peace talks should also address regional aspects. The Western interest in Afghanistan might diminish, but its strategic position, energy routes and rich materials, remain relevant to the regional powers. Even though there is not much the EU and NATO can do to influence these powers, we should recognise their impact on Afghanistan, and therefore on our own security.

    Pakistan’s fate is most closely interlinked with Afghanistan’s and its general elections in 2013 will have a huge impact on the region. Pakistan claims to be committed to a stable Afghanistan, and the US is paying it to fight the insurgents, but at the same time Pakistan is accused of offering the Taliban sanctuary. On top of this, the Pakistani Taliban now intends to focus their attacks more on US forces in Afghanistan instead of the Pakistani government. Pakistan was a supporter of the Taliban rule in Afghanistan, and now it’s demanding that the Haqqanis should be involved in negotiations. In the end, what Pakistan wants is to counterbalance India.

    In turn, India has no sympathy for the Taliban and it helps the Afghan government by donating funds and training the forces. Trade is important to all the regional players however it’s China whose interests in Afghanistan are mostly economic. It wants a stable Afghanistan to invest and gain from its raw materials, and it tries to stay out of fights. However it objects to a permanent US presence in Afghanistan, as does Iran. Iran also has a strong economic position in Afghanistan and a large minority of Afghan migrants and refugees, who it’s now rejecting because of a dislike of Afghan pro-American policies. Regardless of this it supports the Afghan government, but also the Taliban to some extent to erode US dominance.

    Competing with Iran for influence is its archrival Saudi Arabia. Turkey also plays a significant role as a regional power and a mediator between the Afghanistan and Pakistan. For its own security’s sake, Russia wants to see a stable Afghanistan and containment of Islamist extremism. On the other hand, it has no interest in making Afghanistan look like a success for the West.

    Towards the future or back to the past

    In the end transparent and lawful governance and real economic opportunities for people is what would guarantee stability in the country. President Karzai has been accused of insufficient reforms, and Afghanistan remains the third most corrupt country in the world. It’s also the source of 90 per cent of the world’s opium, and 2012 saw an 18 per cent increase in its cultivation. The drug business not only contributes to organised crime and is a global concern, but is one of the Taliban’s main financial sources.

    Continued international support for reforms is needed and funding of over 12 million euros for economic and political transition in Afghanistan by the international community has been agreed. Merely donating, however, is not enough: the EU should not leave the business opportunities just for the other powers but increase our own economic ties as well; that would also contribute to a long-term development in Afghanistan.

    Our enemy’s worst enemy is the modernisation of society. The Afghans themselves, especially women, are worried what would happen to their embattled human rights and education efforts, should international support diminish. One open question is whether EU Member States will decide next summer to continue the EUPOL mission after 2014. EUPOL, which works on judicial reform and rule of law, on top of senior police training, cannot however remain without sufficient military protection and there are already concerns as several provinces are now left to their own devices.

    Without our help, Afghanistan might have a grimmer future, a repeat of the past or even worse, which would mean a grimmer future for the whole region, and for all of us.

    Conclusions: What Europe should do

    • The EU should strengthen its trade with Afghanistan for mutual benefit, identify where Europe could invest and export its know-how.
    • The EU and NATO together should create a comprehensive strategic concept on Afghanistan and the region, also identifying roles and tasks for both organisations.
    • The EU should continue its EUPOL mission and NATO guarantee sufficient military presence after 2014, basing exit-decisions on realities on the ground. A long-term engagement in Afghanistan is in Europe’s own interest.

    Picture source: author’s archive

    Henna Hopia Defence Foreign Policy Security

    Henna Hopia

    Afghanistan – Back to the Past? Update on EU and NATO involvement


    20 Dec 2012

  • On 6 December 2011, the Centre for European Studies (CES), with the involvement of the International Republican Institute (IRI), had the pleasure of welcoming friends from North Africa and the Middle East (MENA) to participate in two policy workshops within the framework of the International Visitors’ Programme at the EPP Congress in Marseille. T

    he two workshops, titled ‘Youth, education and jobs: investment that makes a difference’ and ‘Inclusion, cooperation and innovation: powerhouses of economic growth’, engaged young activists and leaders from MENA countries in order to define current challenges, brainstorm solutions and explore possibilities for collaboration with Europeans.

    Below are five key take-aways from the workshops, generated by the brightest minds in the MENA region. This short list reflects the very latest issues being tackled by the ‘spring generation’ of activists in MENA countries and is intended to provide a basis for future dialogue.

    1. Education was by far the most prominent theme in both workshops. Participants agreed that substantial reforms are urgently needed across the MENA region in order to solve a wide range of economic, political and social challenges.

    2. One of the main focus points in education reform, from the primary all the way to the university level, should be a greater emphasis on the needs of students as opposed to the needs of teachers, schools or the state.

    3. Another focus area should be the correlation between education systems and the actual needs of labour markets, especially in those industries key to spurring economic growth. One potential approach is to focus on ‘centres of excellence’, meaning that specific success stories should be identified, built upon and used as a basis for further reform.

    4. In addressing these goals, cooperation is essential, both among MENA countries themselves and between the MENA region and Europe. This cooperation must be broad and must involve not only governments, but also civil society and business groups.

    5. Meaningful dialogue and successful cooperation will be most successful if Europeans and Arabs alike make a commitment to seek to better understand and appreciate the viewpoints from which the other is coming. This is especially important when discussing issues such as the inclusion of women in society and in the labour market.

    Would you like to make your voice heard on these issues as well? Then participate in the latest initiative of the Centre for European Studies! Go towww.springeneration.eu and share your ideas!

    John Lageson Arab Spring Foreign Policy

    John Lageson

    Building on the Arab Spring


    13 Dec 2011

  • On 23 October, Tunisia held the first elections in the region after the Arab Spring. The results put the Islamist Ennahda party in the lead, but with the need to form a coalition with one or more secular centre-left parties. • Ennahda’s supporters see the party as a moderate political force supportive of women’s rights; however, its opponents warn of Ennahda’s double discourse and believe that, once elected, hardliners will impose a more fundamentalist view of Islam on Tunisian society.

    Ennahda is likely to remain moderate in the short- and medium-term, especially in order to ensure the support of its coalition partners. However, in the longer term its policies could gradually lead to greater Islamisation of the country. • Contrary to the very well organised Ennahda, there are a number of secular, mainly centreleft parties in Tunisia, which are rather disorganised and significantly fragmented. Nonetheless, these parties hope to soon act together to present a more credible secularopposition to the Islamists.

    The West should respect the results as a free and democratic choice of the Tunisian people while striving to be an inclusive partner. This means the West should show more trust and offer practical advice and support in the upcoming democratic processes in Tunisia, including the drafting of the constitution and preparing for the next elections. Background Tunisia is the regional front-runner in a number of aspects – its economy, sizeable middle-class, relatively educated population, greater degree of gender equality, vibrant civil society and overall modernity. It was Tunisia which started the wave of change that has infected other Arab countries with the desire for a more free and democratic Middle East, where human dignity is an indispensable part of society.

    Tunisia is the first country to organise elections after the Arab Spring which, according to national and international observers, have been open, fair and conducted in a democratic and transparent way. Tunisia was also the first country in the region to withdraw all its reservations about the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and to guarantee gender parity on the electoral lists of all registered parties. The revolution in Tunisia may have caught the West by surprise, but the same cannot be said about the results of the 23 October elections. The various polls conducted before the elections were right to place the Islamist party Ennahda in the lead. The high turnout in the elections simply confirmed the strong popularity of the party, which, according to unofficial results, show anywhere from 30-40% of the vote and the biggest share of seats in the 217 seat assembly. The rest of the seats in the assembly will be proportionally divided among nine other political parties. Overall, more than 100 political parties across a wide political spectrum – Islamist, nationalist, leftist, communist, green and all imaginable combinations thereof –registered for the elections. Some parties had almost identical platforms, some had no platforms at all and some formed alliances, some of which have been dissolved and others yet to be created.

    The results of the elections have provoked some protests in the country, but overall, Tunisians,even those disappointed by Ennahda’s victory, are determined to accept them. The same reaction should come from the West. After all, this result reflects the will of the Tunisian people. Who is the winner? Ennahda, or the Renaissance Party, is described, mainly by its supporters, as a moderate Islamist party; they argue the party is in the centre of the political spectrum, supports economic freedom and opposes radical Islam. It is the best-organised political force in the country and is well-funded with the strong grass roots support in the poorest areas. Its opponents, however, are doubtful of its moderate views and advise caution regarding Ennahda’s so-called ‘double discourse‘; while its leaders say one thing when secularists and the West are listening, local activitsts and imams in the mosques do the other. It is true that in its early stages, Ennahda – originally inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt – was aligned with more extreme Islamist movements in the Arab world and was known for the strongly-conservative writings of its leader Rachid Ghanouchi. But this was more than 20 years ago, before the party was banned by the regime and Ghanouchi exiled to London where, according to some observers, he moved from classic conservatism to a more liberal way of thinking. Some observers argue that highlighting their moderate, progressive, rights-based approach to governance was just part of the election campaign, a guise to appeal to voters. These critics believe that, once elected, hardliners will impose a more fundamentalist view of Islam on Tunisia’s society, enforcing the code of morality and revising the code of personal status, thereby creating a negative impact on gender equality.

    The election results now give Ennahda the opportunity to demonstrate how religious and how conservative the party really is and whether the Islamist fear, which was often used to support repressive government policies, is justified. Ennahda is in a powerful but precarious situation. It won the elections but cannot rule alone and needs to form a coalition with secular parties. This should be a reassuring aspect for those who fear a complete Islamist takeover.

    Ennahda must now move from a protest movement to being the most important player in a coalition government. Another challenge for the party is that despite being a largely one-man show, it needs to work seriously within its lower cadres and with groups beyond the entourage of Rachid Ghannouchi. It also needs to confront ideological divisions within the party which have already led some of the more reflective personalities to leave to form their own groups. If the party wants to prevent further divisions, it does not have the luxury of becoming too conservative. More strategically, Ennahda‘s leaders must realise that women’s rights are very important to the majority of the population and that if they go back on their campaign promises and put limitations on a concrete rights-based legislation (by introducing concepts such as forced veiling, limitations on female education, polygamy, etc.), they will face opposition from within their own party as well as from outside, which would reduce their chances of being re-elected. Therefore, in the short- to medium-term they are only likely to adopt aesthetic modifications such as allowing the hijab or even niqab in universities or overturning the ban on veils in national identity card photographs.However, in the long-term this could lead, step by step, to greater Islamisation of the country.

    Another worrying aspect for many Tunisians is that Ennahda’s internal party elections have been postponed until after the national elections, thereby giving Ennahda members a chance to elect a new and potentially more conservative leadership. Members of banned and more radical political groups such as the Salafi Hizb al-Tahrir have expressed interest in participating in the internal elections. If the party’s hard-line conservatives then come to power, there would be significant questions about Ennahda’s commitment to a moderate stance supportive of women’s rights. Who are the others? Since Ennahda has not won a majority of the votes, it will have to create a coalition with one or more secular parties. This means that it will need to promote a more moderate agenda to ensure the support of its coalition members. At the moment it seems like the coalition will be formed with two secular centre-left parties, namely Congress for the Republic and Ettakatol. Congress for the Republic, which came in second in the elections, was legalised after the revolution, while Ettakatol, or the Democratic Forum for Labour and Liberties, existed as an opposition party already under the Ben Ali regime (but was largely marginalised).

    The main opposition party is likely to be the secular and centre-left Progressive Democratic Party (PDP). The election results were a huge disappointment for this party which, according to preelection polls, was expected to be the runner-up; in the end it only received around 10% of the vote. This could be attributed to the fact that the party was not as marginalised as the others, acting as the biggest opposition party during the Ben Ali regime. This clearly shows that Tunisians want to see a complete break with the past. The PDP will most probably form an alliance with other like-minded parties, including the Democratic Modernist Pole and the Party of Tunisian Workers, to offer a more credible alternative to Ennahda. The PDP’s main centre-left rival, Ettakatol, declined the offer of an alliance, but there are a number of other small parties who may join at a later point. Since there was such strong secular-Islamist polarisation prior to the election, many parties may be willing to make otherwise unlikely alliances within the secular ‘bloc‘ of parties.

    Furthermore, a majority of the parties have been formed in the last eight months which, according to some analysts, means that the members – in order to support freedom, peace and development – are more flexible on their beliefs rather than being firm with regard to their individual programmes. Other analysts challenge this argument by saying that the secular liberals are too divided and that it will be difficult to overcome this fragmentation due to ‘massive egos‘ of most of the party leaders. Therefore, they predict that these parties will go into the ‘political wilderness‘ for some months and later realise that they can becomerelatively strong only if they get to acts together. What message for the West? The West should show a little more trust in both the Tunisian Islamists and the Tunisian voters:The Islamists have been democratically elected and therefore will be accountable to the voters.They cannot push an agenda that the majority of the population does not want. Otherwise theirpower could easily have a short life; if they push forward an agenda that is too conservative, they will risk the same end as Ben Ali – an ejection from office. The revolution has simply broken the fear of Tunisian people and if politicians overstep their boundaries, people will take to the streets to protest. Moreover, Tunisia has a relatively developed civil society, the highest literacy rate in the Arab world and a westernised cultural environment, especially in Tunis and the coastal areas.

    All this, including the importance of tourism for Tunisia’s economy, constitutes a considerable hedge against extremism. The West should not turn its back on Tunisia’s Islamists, and instead should reach out to them. Analysts by large agree that the more excluded the Islamists are by the international community, the more radicalised they can get. But even if the Islamists in Tunisia remain moderate and take the Turkish AKP as a role model, it does not mean that there is no reason for caution. Looking at the AKP in the last years, the party has shown a growing influence over the judiciary and increasing restrictions on media freedom. On the foreign policy front, Turkey’s intentions in Iran, Israel, Sudan and its stance in NATO raise questions about whether this is the best example for a new Tunisia. Thus, the West should pursue a balanced mixture of trust and caution; it should be a partner who listens carefully and learns fast. The newly elected assembly will draft a new constitution, appoint an interim government and set a date for new elections late next year or in early 2013. There is certainly room for the West to offer practical advice and support in all these democratic processes.

    Finally, what about the lack of trust? Such a lack has been proven to be best repaired through people-to-people programmes. Therefore, the West should place a strong emphasis on student exchanges, summer schools and cultural exchanges and internship placements for both Tunisianstudents in the EU and vice-versa.

    Katarina Králiková Arab Spring Elections Foreign Policy

    Katarina Králiková

    Tunisia’s first elections after the Arab Spring


    27 Oct 2011

  • There has been much ongoing debate about the effects of economic sanctions imposed on Russia since the beginning of Putin’s war against Ukraine. Many commentators argue that sanctions are having only limited effects or no effect at all – firstly, because they haven’t forced Putin to change his policies, and secondly, because the Russian economy has demonstrated significant resilience. This paper argues that both assertions are misleading. The latter argument – about the resilience of the Russian economy – is based on a flawed approach focused on just a handful of macroeconomic indicators, which are insufficient to assess the genuine state of the Russian economy. A consideration of more detailed data is necessary to determine the true effect of sanctions. Once that is done, the former argument also collapses: the reason Putin hasn’t changed his policies yet is because the Russian economy has some significant safety margins (most likely specifically developed to withstand the consequences of an aggression against Ukraine), and it takes time for sanctions to produce visible macroeconomic effects, thereby forcing Putin to change his policies.

    This paper provides an in-depth analysis of a wide array of detailed economic data, which suggests that such effects are on the way. A look beyond a limited number of widely discussed macroeconomic parameters proves that the economy is already experiencing a wide range of unprecedented difficulties, which are only being contained by policy tricks and Russia’s remaining financial reserves. It is important to understand this comprehensive picture of the effects of sanctions, in order to make adequate policy judgments as to their efficiency.

    Economy EU-Russia Foreign Policy Ukraine

    Beyond the Headlines: The Real Impact of Western Sanctions on Russia


    16 Nov 2022

  • The use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine would create, for the EU and the West more broadly, the most dangerous moment in international security since the Cuban missile crisis. The EU needs to prepare for this eventuality and develop response options.

    Defence EU-Russia Foreign Policy Security

    Thinking the Unthinkable: How Might the EU Prepare for and React to a Russian Nuclear Strike on Ukraine?


    14 Oct 2022

  • Since its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin’s Russia has become the greatest threat to peace and stability in Europe. Even before launching the invasion in February 2022, Russia had become the source of many of Europe’s security problems and challenges. Russia’s behaviour is due to its autocratic government and the absence of political checks and balances on Putin. However, if Russia were a democracy, European security and the EU’s relations with Moscow might look very different. This policy brief discusses what a democratic Russia would mean for Europe. It presents a strategy that the EU could follow in its relations with a democratic Russia—a strategy that includes both carrots and sticks. It is necessary to have such a strategy ready now so that the EU can show the Russian people, even during this time of war, that there is a chance to have a more normal life if Russia were to be transformed. That said, for any of this to happen, Putin’s Russia must lose the war in Ukraine.

    Democracy EU-Russia Foreign Policy

    The EU’s Relations With a Future Democratic Russia: A Strategy

    Policy Briefs

    25 Jul 2022

  • Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine has led to a turning point in Europe’s thinking on security and defence. The EU’s decision to finance the supply of lethal arms and equipment to Ukraine, along with Germany’s and other countries’ announcement to massively increase military spending, marks a remarkable reversal in Europe’s strategic culture.

    Defence Foreign Policy Ukraine

    Russia’s War Against Ukraine is Changing Europe’s Strategic Culture


    08 Mar 2022

  • The European Union (EU) and its member states have recently faced a wide range of fundamental challenges. If the EU does not want to take a back seat in world affairs, it will have to strengthen its role as a global player.  Other than renewing the full operations of the single market (and its long-expected completion), we need to focus on the EU’s global role. More than half of EU citizens want the EU to assume a strong role in the international arena, especially in providing security from external threats, the fight for democracy and human rights protection.  This publication addresses the challenges related to the EU’s potential global power and assumes several points of view. The authors of this publication analyse some of the pressing problems of contemporary European society and politics. They also present specific recommendations to take advantage of the situation, to reduce the negative effects and maximise the rewards.

    Centre-Right Foreign Policy Society

    Emerging Paradigms in the Shifting Foreign and Domestic Environments: The Czech Centre-Right’s Solutions to the Political Challenges of 2022


    30 Nov 2021

  • This paper makes a case for extending qualified majority voting (QMV) to the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), the Union’s main framework for collective external action. Although many EU capitals are unwilling to move away from unanimity in decision-making on CFSP, the paper argues that the benefits of introducing some QMV to this intergovernmental domain outweigh the costs. QMV would boost the resilience of the EU’s foreign-policy system to third-country influence, facilitate the emergence of a common strategic culture among the member states and mitigate the risk that the tone of common European foreign policy is set in various mini-lateral forums outside the EU. The Lisbon Treaty contains a built-in safety mechanism that is designed to ensure that no member state could be dictated to on issues vital to its national interests if QMV were to be used in CFSP. Initially, QMV should be extended only to the adoption of EU statements on international human rights questions. Although a modest step, this would help build trust and confidence among the member states, both towards each other and in the use of QMV in CFSP. If the experience was positive, this could create momentum for expanding QMV to additional CFSP areas later on.

    EU Institutions Foreign Policy

    Qualified Majority Voting in EU Foreign Policy: Make It So

    Policy Briefs

    14 Sep 2021

  • The People’s Republic of China, under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), is an unprecedented challenge to the European Union and to liberal democracy. The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically underscored this fact. China is now in an open rivalry with the West, not only about which political and economic system has better responded to the pandemic, but also about which system will dominate the 21st century.

    • In the EU, our knowledge about China is painfully insufficient. Expertise on China within the Union has further diminished with Brexit.

    • The little China expertise we have is increasingly dependent on Chinese funding, and its guiding narratives are therefore shaped by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its front organisations.

    • The EU should therefore create a budget line to finance China-related research and language training in the EU, within the 2021-2027 MFF budget for “External Instruments”.

    China Foreign Policy Values

    Researching the Dragon – The EU Needs to Build up its Independent China Expertise


    28 Apr 2021

  • Re-Evaluating Cooperation Between China and Central and Eastern European Countries

    In 2012 the ‘16+1’ initiative was officially launched with the aim of formalising a cooperation mechanism between Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and China. The goal of the partnership is to promote cooperation in infrastructure projects, trade, investment, and tourism, which would be beneficial to both sides. The launch came about in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis and the subsequent economic downturn in Europe, which brought rising unemployment in a number of EU countries and put severe strains on national budgets. China saw this as an opportunity to step up and engage with both EU and non-EU countries in order to increase its presence and open up additional export avenues. In 2019 Greece officially joined the initiative, which has since been dubbed the ‘17+1’. China’s efforts were strategic as this framework set the scene for Beijing to expand its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) onto European soil. In essence, the 17+1 mechanism should be seen as an effective conduit between CEE countries and BRI projects.

    Central and Eastern Europe China Foreign Policy

    The 17+1 Mechanism: Something Doesn’t Add Up


    27 Apr 2021

  • Eastern Europe EU-Russia Foreign Policy

    Europe’s strategic East: Rethinking the EU’s Russia and Eastern neighbourhood policy

    European View

    26 Apr 2021

  • The broader Black Sea region is the scene of increasing tensions amid renewed great power competition and conflicting geopolitical and geo-economic interests. The rise of China and its solidifying regional footprint requires a better understanding of how this influence is capitalised at national and regional level, what type of challenges it creates for respective countries, and what choices decision-makers have at their disposal in this new complex and complicated geopolitical setting.

    Balkans China Foreign Policy

    China in the Broader Black Sea Region


    16 Mar 2021

  • The transatlantic relationship has been subjected to a significant stress test under the presidency of Donald Trump. Across Europe, the initial reaction to the election of Joe Biden was almost universally positive. Yet analysts tend to agree that there can be no return to the status quo ante. The world as we knew it under the Obama administration has changed in very fundamental ways, notably with the rise of an assertive China.

    Moreover, the Trump presidency has exacerbated the sharp polarisation of political preferences within the US. Bipartisan foreign policy is a feature of the past. Europe cannot assume there will be policy continuity after the next presidential election in 2024. It is time to take stock of transatlantic values and interests—which are not always in harmony—and to attempt to forge a new type of partnership across the Atlantic, one more geared to the realities of an emerging multipolar world.

    Europe should not abandon its attempts to develop a greater measure of autonomy from—or non-dependence on—the US. And the US should not see such yearnings as threatening. There will be many issues on which Europe and a Biden administration will work in harmony.

    But there will also be policy areas where friction could well arise, most notably over trade, China, Russia and the future of NATO. It would be in the interests of neither the US nor the EU for the latter to revert to the type of followership that has characterised its relations with the US since the Cold War. Only by recognising the distinctiveness of US and European values and interests will it be possible for the two sides to move towards a more balanced partnership that will confer true strength on their relationship.

    Defence Foreign Policy Transatlantic

    Europe and Biden: Towards a New Transatlantic Pact?

    Policy Briefs

    20 Jan 2021

  • As part of the KAS-MC Discussion club, which had its 5th edition in 2020, the Martens Centre and the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Belarus produced a publication bringing together three Belarusian experts to shed some light on the ongoing situation in their country. All three contributions are in both English and Russian.

    Eastern Europe EU-Russia Foreign Policy

    The Political Turmoil in Belarus: Current Realities and Foreseeable Prospects


    11 Dec 2020

  • China is no longer only a partner, but increasingly also a systemic competitor, due to the continued enforcement of state capitalism under Xi Jinping. The hope for change through trade has not been fulfilled, as the growing influence of the Chinese Communist Party shows. Trust in the Chinese leadership has been eroded in recent years due to an aggressive global raw materials strategy, expansive moves in Southeast Asia, the Belt and Road Initiative, the 17+1 initiative, and the interference with Hong Kong most recently.​

    China Economy Foreign Policy Trade

    For a More Robust Approach Towards China in European Trade and Investment Policy


    28 Sep 2020

  • The recent deployment of Russian fighter jets to Libya is a dangerous escalation of an already complicated and bloody conflict, with a surge in civilian casualties. The civil war raging in Libya has, in effect, created a situation where outside powers (mainly Russia and Turkey) are vying for control of Libya’s future and trying to expand their footholds in the Eastern Mediterranean. This escalation not only affects Libya, but it is also impeding on the effort of solving other regional issues such as illegal trafficking of both people and drugs, terrorism, and border disputes in the Maghreb and Sahel regions.

    Crisis European Union Foreign Policy Mediterranean

    State of play in the Libyan Civil War


    19 Jun 2020

  • This policy brief argues that the EU risks negative consequences if it continues to let economic interests prevail over its stated aim of promoting human rights in its relations with Central Asia. The strengthening of authoritarian regimes in Central Asia has led to the growth of social tensions and an increase in the number of possible hotbeds of radicalisation in the region, both of which, in turn, pose direct threats to the EU in matters of security, the influx of migrants and the protection of investments. In order to address these challenges, and taking into account the influence of Russia and China in the region, the EU should increase the effectiveness of its projects in the fields of education, health care, civil and political freedoms, good governance, justice reform and support for local civil society. The EU must make it evident to Central Asian states that strengthening cooperation with the Union offers these countries significant socio-economic benefits which cannot be gained from cooperation with China or Russia.

    European Union Foreign Policy Human Rights

    EU Human Rights Promotion in Central Asia – Between the Dragon and the Bear

    Policy Briefs

    06 Apr 2020

  • There is a good reason not to reach straight for the panic button as a reaction to increased irregular migration flows from Turkey. Since signing the migration deal with the EU, Turkish President Erdoğan has been trying to rattle the European’s nerves with threats of a new migrant inflow. However, the EU’s position vis-à-vis Turkey is not as weak as it appears. 

    The Turkish government has, in fact, expressed strong interest in continued European financial support for Syrian refugees residing in Turkey. Also, the EU and Greece are better prepared for a migration crisis, than they were in 2015. The worst-case scenario of hundreds of thousands making it from Turkey to Greece is very unlikely. Even if such a scenario were to happen, the EU could unilaterally abolish its customs union with Turkey, terminate the preferential treatment for Turkish agriculture products and halt arms exports to the country. Given the undesirability of this scenario, diplomacy is a much more preferable option. 

    European Union Foreign Policy Immigration Migration

    The EU and the Prospect of a New Migration Wave from Turkey


    10 Jan 2020

  • Since the end of the Second World War, every US administration has promoted European recovery, transatlantic cooperation and joint defence. Common interests, together with common principles and values, constituted the bedrock of the post-war partnership between Europe and the US. NATO became an alliance of both interests and values.

    Today, however, the transatlantic partnership is facing a new series of challenges. Of these, two are of particular importance: one external, the other internal. The external challenge concerns the rise of two great revisionist powers, Russia and China, as well as Islamic terrorism. The internal challenge is the declining willingness of the US to defend the international order it created and the fracturing of the core of this system. These global shifts are forcing the Atlantic partnership to re-examine its common interests, its common values, its capabilities and its strategic objectives.

    This paper argues that there is a need for a new grand bargain that would lead to a more equal transatlantic partnership. The goals are stronger trade relationships through revitalised negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and a more even defence relationship that addresses both the question of burden sharing and the disparity in military capability between Europe and the US.

    EU-US Foreign Policy Trade Transatlantic

    The Renewal of Vows: A New Transatlantic Chapter for Europe and America

    Research Papers

    08 Aug 2019

  • The EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy was launched in 1998 as a quest for ‘autonomy’. The EU sought the capacity to stabilise its volatile neighbourhood without undue reliance on the US. Almost two decades of efforts have failed to deliver on that objective. But as EU leaders, post-Brexit, re-launch the Common Security and Defence Policy, as the 2016 European Global Strategy rediscovers the virtues of ‘strategic autonomy’, and as the world juggles with a US president who appears to question the very bases of the Atlantic Alliance, it is time to radically re-think the relations between the EU and NATO.

    This paper argues that, in the longer term, it is through strengthening the EU–NATO relationship, rather than by focusing on defence initiatives undertaken by the Union alone, that EU strategic autonomy will become possible. This will, at the same time, consolidate rather than weaken the transatlantic bond.

    Brexit Defence Foreign Policy Security Transatlantic

    Strategic Autonomy: Why It’s Not About Europe Going it Alone

    Research Papers

    08 Aug 2019

  • Since the time that the popular uprisings in Syria mushroomed into a civil war, prospects for a negotiated political settlement have been thwarted because of the myriad diverging interests of the regime, local opposition groups, and regional and global actors, all of which are vying for power and influence in the country. Europe is deeply troubled by the human rights situation in the country. However, as currently organised, the EU lacks the foreign- and defence-policy mechanisms that would allow it to make a significant impact on the conflict.

    Any chance of influencing the situation that the EU may have had in the beginning of the conflict dissipated relatively quickly. This paper recommends that the EU broadens its policy options and engages in ‘linkage politics’ with key powers, particularly Turkey, which has shared interests on certain fronts and direct influence on the ground in Syria. The EU has a long-standing relationship with Turkey, which was developed through the EU accession and customs union processes and more recently in connection with migration management.

    Its concerns about Turkey’s descent into authoritarianism notwithstanding, the EU should build on this relationship to promote, as much as possible, a democratic, stable, just and prosperous Syria and greater Middle East region. More specifically, this broader policy framework should emphasise deeper and more sustained coordination of humanitarian responses, border management and de-mining. It should also stress the need for inclusive economic growth as concerns both the displaced Syrian private sector operating in Turkey and its Turkish business counterpart.

    Democracy Foreign Policy Human Rights Middle East

    Thin on the Ground: Recalibrating EU-Turkey Engagement in Syria

    Research Papers

    08 Jul 2019

  • The Arctic is changing. Facing challenges driven by resource demands, changing power relations and climate change, the top of the world demands the attention of European states and EU officials. This paper examines the main geopolitical issues in the Arctic, such as the development of the region’s energy resources, the underlying potential for conflict and the increasing presence of China in the region. It argues that to unpack the region’s complexities, we need to recognise the diversity within the Arctic across a range of issues and to differentiate different levels of analysis: the international and the regional.

    Furthermore, this paper argues that the EU’s approach to the north suffers as a result of a general deficiency in EU external policies,  namely  incoherence  and  a  multitude  of  voices  and  opinions.  To  have a more effective Arctic policy, the EU needs to distinguish between the different levels  outlined  here,  raise  awareness  of  the  issues  facing  the  Arctic  among  its member states and politicians, and better communicate the relevance of the Union to Arctic states. The EU must view the Arctic primarily as a long-term strategic priority and as an area of growing geopolitical importance. 

    EU-Russia Foreign Policy Security

    The New Geopolitics of the Arctic: Russia, China and the EU

    Policy Briefs

    08 Apr 2019

  • One of the main concerns that voters are likely to have in their minds when casting their ballots in next  year’s european elections is security. This means that the EU needs an ambitious agenda in the area of security and defence for  2019-2024.  More specifically, it needs a set of concrete deliverables, which, if delivered properly and communicated effectively to european citizens, could help boost europeans’ sense of security where they might live in the Union.

    Defence EU Institutions EU Member States Foreign Policy Security

    Security and Defence policy: An Agenda for 2019-2024


    29 Nov 2018

  • European socialists have held a de facto monopoly over the position of the EU’s foreign policy high representative ever since it was created almost two decades ago. When new people will be appointed to the EU’s senior leadership positions in autumn 2019, the centre-right should seek to deny the socialists from having an almost automatic right to determine the person who is appointed as the high representative by carefully vetting all candidates. The minimum goal should be to ensure that the next high representative’s views and believes are more aligned with the centre-right’s vision of europe in the world than they currently are.

    Centre-Right Foreign Policy Leadership Security

    Time for a (more) centre-right EU foreign policy chief


    16 Oct 2018

  • The 14 April US-led missile strikes against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack were necessary to reestablish deterrence against any future use of such weapons in the country. Yet, the strikes were reactive rather than strategic in nature, and will not change the course of syria’s civil war. This would require the West to outline a clear vision for the country’s future, and a strategy to achieve it.

    Defence EU-US Foreign Policy Security

    The US-led missile strikes in Syria


    23 Apr 2018

  • With  the  global  governance  system  becoming  increasingly unrepresentative of the changed realities of the twenty-first century, the emerging powers have been all the more proactive in seeking to reshape it. This paper focuses on three multilateral structures recently created by the emerging powers and asks whether  they  represent  an emerging  alternative  international order or rather the (re)ascendance of international liberalism. More specifically, the paper assesses the development of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the New Development Bank and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement. I argue that these bodies aspire, not to eclipse their established counterparts, but to complement them, by building on their best practices and omitting their shortcomings.

    Foreign Policy Globalisation

    New Multilateral Structures: the Rise of an Alternative Order or More of the Same?


    27 Jun 2017

  • The EU has been paying increasing attention to the phenomenon of information warfare. However, this has not gone as far as to penetrate the fog of disinformation surrounding the motherland to investigate how the Kremlin’s propaganda machine operates in Russia itself.

    The Kremlin uses internal propaganda both to maintain legitimacy and as a defence mechanism against the outside world. By drawing attention away from domestic problems and creating an environment of fear and impending doom, it portrays an alternative reality in which Russia is surrounded by mythical enemies.

    The EU is portrayed as an aggressive and expansionist entity that wants to destroy Russia, while at the same time it is depicted as a weak, ‘decadent’ and ‘un-Christian’ union that cannot cope with global challenges.

    On the other hand, the Kremlin’s main caveat in doing so, is that Russia’s success is inherently connected with the failure of the West and democracy.

    This paper scrutinises the Kremlin’s propaganda machine and its popular narratives about the EU in order to understand how Russia’s media presents the EU and why less than a quarter of the population has a positive opinion of it. 

    Eastern Europe European Union Foreign Policy

    How We Have Become an Enemy in the Eyes of Russia: The EU as Portrayed by Kremlin Propaganda


    21 Mar 2017

  • It is widely believed that Britain’s decision to leave the EU and Donald Trump’s election to the White House have strengthened both the case for and the possibility of an ambitious EU defence policy, perhaps even of an EU army.

    This short paper  argues that, contrary to widespread fears, the EU can become a powerful security and defence policy player without adopting the hierarchical structures of traditional states and while maintaining decentralised defence responsibilities and a pluralist institutional framework. 

    Two relevant historical examples—the Holy Roman Empire and the Hanseatic League—are presented to draw general lessons on how the EU could accomplish this, thus becoming an effective ‘postmodern power. 

    Defence Foreign Policy Security

    Security Policy: The Case for a Postmodern EU Defence Architecture


    15 Mar 2017

  • The current Western liberal order is in danger of becoming vulnerable to threats posed by political systems which have no regard for universal values, such as human rights, and are willing to use brutal force—as is the case with Putin’s Russia and aggressive Islamist movements.

    The spillover effects of instability in the regions outside of the EU are taking a significant toll on the Union. Unless the West succeeds in making a case for the universality of the values underpinning its institutions and shows the capacity to defend those values, in the medium and long term, the West could lose this battle. Europe has no better way to defend itself than by expanding the geographic reach of its ideological sphere of influence. 

    This is why the EU has to invest in state-building and security in its Eastern and Southern neighbourhood. This paper argues that the EU needs to rethink the focus of its European Neighbourhood Policy; it needs to go beyond the limited scope of technical cooperation or the project of economic integration, and must invest in itself as a ‘geopolitical’ actor.

    The best way to do so is through the Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy. The EU has to prioritise its role as a ‘stabiliser’ and security actor in its immediate neighbourhood. 

    Democracy Foreign Policy Neighbourhood Policy Security

    Good or Bad Neighbours: The Main European Security Challenge

    Research Papers

    07 Nov 2016

  • The paper considers current political challenges encountered by Georgia and the geopolitical framework in which the EU-Georgia relationship develops. While Georgia is apparently better off on the democratic front, clouds are gathering again ahead of the forthcoming parliamentary elections — a possible game changer.

    Economy remain sluggish, political landscape fragmented and unpredictable, and security concerns unabated. Plagued by a multitude of problems and challenges, the West’s interest in the country has been diminishing, while Russia is intensifying its propaganda machine and other dangerous tools at its disposal.

    The EU can and should develop a more differentiated approach to the South Caucasus and the Eastern Neighbourhood — and Georgia, in particular— based less on geography and more on democratic achievements and strategic importance. It is also discussed what the EU and other actors such as Eu

    Eastern Europe Elections EU-Russia Foreign Policy Neighbourhood Policy

    What the EU Can, May and Should Do to Support Georgia

    Policy Briefs

    30 Sep 2016

  • Seven consecutive enlargements, spanning over half a century, have provided geopolitical stability in Europe and facilitated trade and economic growth. Currently, the EU is considering further expansion towards the Western Balkans and Turkey. In this process, the EU is weighing fundamental values against security concerns, public scepticism in some member states and past experience of letting in countries that were not prepared.

    In addition the economic, security and refugee crises are making the EU more cautious about enlarging further. The present paper considers options for further EU enlargement, including ending enlargement altogether, offering a reduced membership status (‘membership minus’) and keeping enlargement alive under strict conditions.

    It argues for the third option, under which the EU institutions must make sure that candidate countries not only align their legislation with that of the community but also respect fundamental EU values in the economic, political and legal spheres. Giving a viable prospect for membership is vital to enabling the candidates to maintain reform momentum and their attachment to the West. It is also in the interests of the EU and its member states.

    Balkans Enlargement Foreign Policy

    The Long March Towards the EU: Candidates, Neighbours and the Prospects for Enlargement

    Research Papers

    19 Apr 2016

  • After four years of war, Syria threatens the balance of its neighbours and the security of the entire Mediterranean basin. Europe’s interests are directly at stake in a conflict where it did not have the appropriate tools to react with at first: long procedures, a lack of cohesion between EU institutions, an absence of military culture in a country that shows no sign of appeasement and the inability of EU Member States to define a joint stand in the Middle East are fair criticism of Brussels’ performance.

    And yet, more than four billion euros were spent to heal wounds and help suffering communities while EU diplomats try to bring all sides to the negotiating table. With regional powers such as Russia, Iran, Turkey or Saudi Arabia playing on opposite sides, it appears that no factions can reach a decisive victory on the ground, as Bashar Assad, the Islamic State and the Syrian opposition are holding on against each other. Europe learned from the conflict’s dynamics and adapted its own foreign instruments to this violent context, notably in support of partners and civil society groups.

    Foreign Policy Middle East Security

    Innocence and War: Searching for Europe’s Strategy in Syria

    Research Papers

    15 Dec 2015

  • It is not easy to come to terms with the reality that Europe is once again facing an adversary at its borders. Making a shift in Europe’s policy towards Russia would be painful, with too many interests involved and too many years of demanding diplomatic work going to waste. However, the sooner Europe reconciles itself to the reality that Russia has been engaged in an undeclared war against the liberal values underpinning the peace and prosperity of Europe, the sooner it can find the right policy response.

    Information warfare is an integral part of Putin’s assault on Europe. The scale and intensity of Russia’s information warfare capability has fully come to light in the country’s aggression against Ukraine. But, as this paper argues, these capabilities have been cultivated over many years and constitute an integral part of Russia’s new strategy for ‘hybrid’ or ‘non-linear’ warfare. This strategy uses military, criminal, intelligence, business, diplomatic, media, cyber and political techniques to achieve Russia’s goals.

    This paper analyses the main elements of Russia’s vast, well-integrated and well-organised information warfare capabilities. It also deciphers the main messages of Russia’s propaganda machine in the West, concentrating on Russia’s efforts to undermine faith in liberal values and legitimise its claim to former constituent parts of the USSR. The paper examines how Russia is using its allies in European business and political circles to spread its message. It also provides recommendations for policymakers and nongovernmental actors, with a view to countering Russia’s propaganda. Europe is at war—an information war. Like any other war, this requires a defence strategy.

    The West’s response to the Russian challenge should be better information, not more propaganda. Designing such a response will require developing delicately crafted policy options, constructing an appropriate institutional framework, allocating the necessary resources, and finding the right messages and messengers.

    Eastern Europe EU-Russia Foreign Policy

    Muzzling the bear: Strategic Defence for Russia’s Undeclared Information War on Europe

    Research Papers

    16 Jun 2015

  • This research paper examines two modern disruptive military technologies that are being used increasingly frequently: remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) and cyber-attacks. These technologies are called disruptive because they are profoundly changing our societies and warfare. These changes also apply to Europe, so it needs to take them into account and adapt to the changes. More conventional threats have not disappeared, however, but are sometimes used alongside the new methods, as Russian aggression in Ukraine has shown. Europe is facing a hybrid threat with multiple elements that blend together and can change rapidly. However, Europe is falling behind in developing or even dealing with new technologies. Insufficient investment has been made in research and development (R&D) and, due to a decline in military technology programmes, the European defence industry is suffering. If this continues we might lose important capabilities that have already been jeopardised by defence-budget cuts in recent years, and the existence of European military technology know-how could even be endangered. Creating European projects, such as a common RPAS, and economies of scale will be necessary to support the European defence industry.

    Defence Foreign Policy Innovation Technology

    Dawn of the Drones: Europe’s Security Response to the Cyber Age

    Research Papers

    17 Apr 2015

  • For the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies, 2014 was a year of significant changes that reflect the organisation’s maturity and its established position on the European think tank scene.

    Democracy Economy Elections Foreign Policy Transatlantic

    Activity Report 2014

    Activity Report

    19 Mar 2015

  • Georgia is unquestionably the most open polity of the South Caucasus, and its political development will be a bell-wether for the prospects of democratic development across Eurasia. This research paper analyses the achievements and shortcomings of the Rose Revolution era as well as the prospects for the country under the leadership of the Georgian Dream Coalition. Furthermore, it discusses the influence of Russia on Georgia’s development on the path of European integration and democracy-building. In the past decade, Georgia has transformed from a failed state to a functioning one; President Saakashvili helped modernise Georgia’s conception of itself and moved Georgia irrevocably toward integration with Euro-Atlantic institutions. Prime Minister Ivanishvili has continued Georgia’s foreign policy priorities of EU and NATO integration, declaring these to be irreversible. Meanwhile, Russia is doubling down on its efforts at coercive integration of the post-Soviet space, with the explicit purpose of undermining the east–west corridor. Should Georgia’s democratic progress be reversed, the very feasibility of democratic governance in post-Soviet countries as a whole would be called into question. Should it continue to progress towards European norms, the viability of the model of state–society relations that Vladimir Putin euphemistically terms ‘sovereign democracy’ would instead be challenged.

    Democracy EU-Russia Foreign Policy Neighbourhood Policy Security

    Getting Georgia Right

    Research Papers

    02 Dec 2013

  • Founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hassan al Banna, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) is the oldest and most influential modern Islamist movement. As per its motto ‘Islam is the solution’, the MB sees Islam as an all-embracing system governing all aspects of private and public life that, once implemented, constitutes the antidote to all the social, moral, economic and political ills plaguing Muslim societies.

    Even though it does not completely eschew the use of violence for political goals, the MB aims to achieve its goal of establishing a purely Islamic system of government as a natural consequence of the peaceful, bottom-up Islamisation of the majority of the population.

    The brief analyses the situation of Muslim Brotherhood (MB)-inspired entities throughout the Arab world two years after the beginning of the Arab Spring. In keeping with the flexibility and political opportunism that has characterised the group since its early days, Muslim Brotherhood inspired entities have adopted different positions according to the circumstances. In Tunisia and Egypt, where for the first time in history they have gained power through elections, MB entities are trying to gradually solidify their positions and advance their agendas while avoiding dramatic moves that could undermine their still weak hold on power.

    In Arab countries where authoritarian regimes still rule, Muslim Brotherhood entities are adopting positions ranging from participation in government to military confrontation. The brief concludes by analysing potential concerns for Western policymakers and future scenarios.

    Arab Spring Democracy Elections Foreign Policy Islam

    The Muslim Brotherhood after the Arab Spring: Tactics, Challenges and Future Scenarios

    Policy Briefs

    29 May 2013

  • Europe needs to use the strengths of both the EU and NATO to effectively respond to the ever more diverse threats that require collective efforts. This is the only way through which European security can be guaranteed in the face of struggles with limited resources and decreasing defence funding, as well as the further US disengagement from Europe. For this to happen, and as both organisations share most of the same member states, it is vital to achieve better cooperation between the EU and NATO. Attempts to strengthen EU-NATO relations have been made, but these have not been enough. The attempts always hit the same walls: both between the EU and NATO, and within these organisations. All EU Member States and the organisations themselves must now take responsibility and end the futile competition between the EU and NATO that is undermining European security.

    Defence Foreign Policy Security Transatlantic

    Breaking Down the Walls: Improving EU–NATO Relations

    Research Papers

    29 May 2013

  • The question of what Europe’s nuclear strategy should be is rarely discussed. While Europe continues to play a crucial role on issues relating to non-proliferation, particularly in negotiations with Iran over its nuclear programme, nuclear strategy is generally considered to be within remit of Russia, the United States and NATO.

    The paper identifies possible scenarios where the deployment of nuclear weapons may be justified. It also examines the use of tactical nuclear weapons, traditional means of arms control and the implications of a nuclear Iran. The author establishes a compelling case for the immediate development of a coherent European nuclear strategy. This strategy should take into account the role of nuclear weapons in maintaining peace and security in modern Europe.

    While conceding that during periods of financial and political crisis dialogue may not be considered a priority, the author maintains that it is essential in order to limit the risk of proliferation or the use of nuclear weapons.

    Defence EU-US Foreign Policy Middle East Security

    Rethinking the Bomb: Europe and Nuclear Weapons in the Twenty-First Century

    Research Papers

    06 Mar 2013

  • An action plan for EU–MENA cooperation in the field of education should aim to (i) strengthen ongoing projects under the Euro-Mediterranean Higher Education and Research Area while initiating new policy mechanisms to support quality education and network-based governance and (ii) coordinate EU efforts with those of other donors to create sound policies that are politically and administratively feasible.

    Arab Spring Foreign Policy Middle East

    Ideas to Actions: A Springeneration for EU-MENA Cooperation in Education


    01 Nov 2012

  • Turkey’s growing assertiveness on the international stage, difficulties with EU accession, rapidly rising economy, and the long and controversial reign of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) are all necessitating a need for analysis. The present study of the Centre for European Studies presents two papers which look at Turkey and the AKP from different perspectives. Svante Cornell’s paper argues that AKP has moved away from democratic reforms and that Turkey’s ‘zero problems with the neighbours’ approach to international relations has failed. Gerald Knaus maintains that the AKP and the EU’s influence on Turkey have effected radical changes in the balance of power between the military and civilian actors, thus bringing Turkey somewhat closer to Western democratic standards. Both authors advocate continued EU engagement with Turkey, irrespective of the progress of accession negotiations

    European Union Foreign Policy Mediterranean Neighbourhood Policy

    Dealing with a Rising Power: Turkey’s Transformation and its Implications for the EU

    Research Papers

    01 Oct 2012

  • The global trend for contracting out the supply of military and security services to private military and security companies is growing. Security is being transformed from a service for the public or common good into a privately provided service. The present paper by Nikolaos Tzifakis argues that the implications of outsourcing security services to private agencies are not a priori positive or negative; proper regulation of private military and security services is important.

    The author recommends that states should determine their ‘inherently governmental functions’ and keep these functions out of the market’s reach. States should attempt to mitigate some of the shortcomings in the operation of the private market for security services by preventing supply from determining its own demand. States need to avoid contracting out services to corporations that enjoy a monopoly in the market. Instead, they should open competitive bids for all private security contracts.

    Defence Foreign Policy Security

    Contracting out to Private Military and Security Companies

    Research Papers

    23 Jul 2012

  • There is every indication that the international system is undergoing a period of significant transformation. The substantially higher growth rates of the emerging-market economies in comparison with those of the developed economies are changing the global distribution of power. Studies project that if economic trends are not reversed in the coming years, China will surpass the US and become the world’s largest economy, India will emerge in Japan’s place as the third-largest economy and Brazil will outpace Germany as the fifth-largest. This book underscores the complexity of forecasting international politics and proceeds cautiously to investigate the questions of change and continuity, examining several actors with respect to multiple issues and across different levels of analysis. Taken as a whole, this collection of essays offers a series of snapshots of different aspects, and from varying angles, of an international system in motion.

    Foreign Policy Globalisation Security

    International Politics in Times of Change


    02 Jan 2012

  • In the aftermath of this year’s revolutions, the EU has rightly recommitted itself to the support of democracy and human rights in the Middle East and North Africa. However, although protesters across the southern Mediterranean share some of the EU’s values, they do not see Europe as a political model and democracy in the region is likely to produce some results with which Europeans are not comfortable. This brief argues that, in response, the EU should focus above all on the development of legitimate and accountable governments in post-revolutionary countries in the Arab world. Rather than backing specific political groups in countries that are in transition, the EU should work to create the building blocks and background conditions for fair and inclusive politics. The EU should also try to support human rights through transparent diplomacy and support for civil society. In countries such as Morocco that remain undemocratic, the EU should develop a more political approach that pushes harder for incremental reform in return for credible benefits, while continuing to engage on other EU interests. The use of violence against civilians in countries like Syria should be a red line for limiting cooperation, drawing condemnation and sanctions in severe cases. EU proposals on conditionality and a new European Endowment for Democracy will be most effective if they are focused on the support of accountable and legitimate government.

    Arab Spring Foreign Policy Neighbourhood Policy

    Europe and the Arab Revolutions


    01 Jan 2012

  • The 2011 edition is devoted to “Europe and the Crisis and Threats at Large” (economic crisis, budget, Euro, reciprocity, defence, terrorism, industrial policy populism, etc) notably with articles by Jacques de Larosière, Anne-Marie Idrac, Alain Lamassoure, Joachim Bitterlich, Philippe Camus, Arnaud Danjean. It also includes an exclusive interview with Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council. 26 specialists offer readers original analyses, supported with unique data (48) and maps (28), covering everything there is to know about Europe in 2011. The articles focus on the following themes:

    • the European Union and the crisis, the rise of populism, Germany 20 years after reunification.

    • lessons to be learned from the world economic and financial crisis, outlook for the next European budget, the debt crisis, central banks and monetary policy, Europe and industrial ambition, economy and speculation.

    • the threat of al-Qaeda, EU’s new trade policy, European Defence.

    • the results of the electoral year, the representation of women in Europe, the protection of human rights, legislative output.

    Crisis European Union Foreign Policy

    Schuman Report on Europe: State of the Union 2011


    29 Apr 2011

  • In this paper, three long-time observers of Russia and the EU perform a reality check on the EU–Russia relationship. All three authors agree that a more realistic EU policy would deal with Russia as it is, not as the EU wants it to be. The reality of today’s Russia is complex, as is the policy formulation process in the EU. Nevertheless, the EU should start with a clearer idea of where its own interests and priorities lie. It should accept that it can achieve fruitful cooperation with Russia in some areas while openly disagreeing with it in others. The EU needs to be prepared to work with Russia as an equal partner without compromising its own norms and values.

    Energy EU-Russia Foreign Policy

    EU-Russia Relations: Time for a realistic turnaround

    Research Papers

    01 Mar 2011

  • This research paper analyses the foreign policy positions of five populist parties of the Right and Left in Western Europe. It focuses on foreign policy, an often ignored dimension of their ideas. It aims to fill a hole in policy debates by showing that European populism poses a coherent threat to mainstream politics, that foreign policy can be instrumental to the challenge mounted by populist parties against centrist politics and that the impact of those positions is practical and real for European states and the European Union.

    Extremism Foreign Policy Populism

    Old Ghosts in New Sheets: European Populist Parties and Foreign Policy

    Research Papers

    01 Mar 2011

  • This report will examine America’s and Europe’s positions in the world and their relationship with one another. What are the reasons for the widening of the divide? Are they rooted in current political or individual constellations, or are there larger structural causes—even paradigm shifts—that are slowly driving the partners apart? It will then discuss several areas of transatlantic cooperation and describe how the current divides over these issues can be bridged and a new framework established: a new transatlantic relationship for the multipolar age.

    EU-US Foreign Policy Transatlantic

    Stopping the Drift: Recalibrating the Transatlantic Relationship for a Multipolar World

    Research Papers

    01 Oct 2010

  • The six states of the ‘Eastern Partnership’ – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and the Ukraine – can be termed the “New Eastern Europe”. In this paper Svante Cornell, discusses the EU’s internal divisions and how to deal with the new Eastern Europe. He also outlines the prospects of the Eastern Partnership.

    Eastern Europe EU-Russia Foreign Policy

    The New Eastern Europe: Challenges and Opportunities for the EU

    Research Papers

    01 Mar 2010

  • The purpose of this research paper is to critically review the policies of the European Union towards Africa, to consider some important future challenges for the interregional relationship and to present some useful policy recommendations

    Foreign Policy Security Trade

    EU-Africa Relations: Dealing With the Challenges of the Future

    Research Papers

    01 Jan 2010

  • European views on Turkey’s membership in the EU have been split between those in support of its full integration and those advocating a privileged partnership. To the extent that many of the latter proposals imply that Turkey will be partially integrated within Europe in certain areas, the question of Turkey’s accession is probably not about ‘if’, but about ‘how much’ integration there will be within the Union’s structures. The purpose of this book is not to offer a definitive response to this question. The book aims instead to examine the complexity of the issues pertaining to Turkey’s prospective EU membership by presenting several, often divergent, accounts of the political, security and socio-economic dimensions of the entire process. The book provides a forum for an exchange of views among distinguished scholars and researchers from different national backgrounds in order to contribute to the ongoing public discussion of Turkey’s accession.

    Enlargement European Union Foreign Policy Integration Security

    Turkey’s Accession to the European Union: An Unusual Candidacy


    05 Jan 2009

  • This paper assesses the extent of cooperation between the EU, Israel and the PA and offers a set of policy recommendations for European policy makers responsible for relations with Israel, the PA and the Middle East in general.

    Foreign Policy Middle East

    Squaring the Circle? EU-Israel Relations and the Peace Process in the Middle East

    Research Papers

    01 Jan 2009

  • This report is about promotion of the democratic constitutional state in the Middle East. The perception of the Western world is not very positive in the Middle East. Religion is seen as part of a confrontation strategy, rather than part of the dialogue. But there is a bridge. For both Christian Democrats and Muslims, religion is a source of inspiration for their lives and their political orientation. Our experience is that religion can be a very rich source for democracy. The question is which elements of our tradition and history are most productive for the dialogue.

    Democracy Foreign Policy Islam Middle East Religion

    Crossing bridges – Democratisation in the Middle East and a Christian Democratic Approach


    07 Nov 2008

  • It is a common perception that poverty is fertile breeding ground for terrorism. Or at least, fuel for such activity. But not all poor areas produce extremism; we know where young men absorb extremist ideologies, and where, for instance, jihadists receive their training. In the beginning we bumped into the problem of definition; what is terrorism? What kind of terrorism are we looking into? Should we leave, say, separatist acts outside? Then the decision had to be made: this conference was to concentrate its efforts on understanding the logic and driving forces behind Islamist terrorism, and whether a better directed development policy could play any role in fighting it – given that poverty and lack of opportunities do play a role in an individual’s decision to join a radical group. Security in Europe – or globally, for that matter – is of course not entirely dependent on religious fanaticism. There are new threats we are aware of, and which we should better prepare for. There was also a question about the possible links between security and development, and how they interact. 

    Development Extremism Foreign Policy Security

    Fight against terrorism and Development Policy: Two Sides of the Same Coin


    02 Nov 2008

  • NATO and the European Union have developed, enlarged and grown closer to each other. With common security threats, which are global in nature and hold both new and old elements, the tasks of these two organisations have aligned. Now it is important to ask what must be done to avoid overlapping ef orts and to create beneficial synergies. The nature of these organisations offers possibilities and generates standards for further cooperation and integration. The purpose of this paper is to describe developments in the ever changing security environment of Europe, and the steps the EU and NATO have taken to tackle these threats. Could there be more profound defence cooperation between the EU and NATO? 

    Defence European Union Foreign Policy Security

    The Finnish Perspective: European Defence


    02 Jun 2008